Friday, September 05, 2014

TOP STORY >> New runway for modern fleet

Leader senior staff writer

Replacement of the existing Little Rock Air Force Base runway is slated to be completed by April 4, 2017, according to the terms of the Army Corp of Engineers’ $107.9 million contract with Sundt Construction, Inc. of Tempe, Ariz.

The bid was awarded Wednesday, according to Corps spokesman Laurie Driver. Sundt will have 30 days to hold safety briefings and submit information to the Corps. Then work could begin, she said.

The 12,000-foot runway, which has been repeatedly patched over the years, will now be replaced, half at a time, Driver said.

It is the busiest single flightline in the Air Force, according to Arlo Taylor, a spokesman at the base.

The base, which is the premier C-130 training and operations base in the world, will still have 6,000 feet to take off and land — twice the length required by small, versatile airlifters, including a new fleet of modern C-130Js.

“The airfield construction project will posture Little Rock Air Force Base for our current mission and future missions,” said Col. Patrick Rhatigan, 19th Airlift Wing commander. “The upgrades and modifications being made to our 12,000-foot runway will improve mission capability and safety for the base as the fourth largest employer in of Arkansas and the home of C-130 Combat Airlift.”

Corps of Engineers project manager Leon Iveson worked with the Air Force to make sure the runway could be replaced half at a time without disrupting training and operations.

The replacement “will resize the runway from 200-foot wide to 150-foot wide. However, the length will remain at 12,000 foot. The project includes the replacement of associated runway lighting and navigational aids,” Iveson said.

Iveson explained the need for replacement. “The runway is over 50 years old and is developing substantial amounts of Foreign Object Damage (FOD) potential, primarily from joint spalls and cracked slabs. The combination of the poor soils, high water table and keyway slab joints enable new spalls to develop soon after repairs are made. The busy runway traffic coupled with the underlying drainage issues is the primary cause of the damage.

“Studies have shown that saturated conditions exist in the runway embankment. The water source is from artesian sources in the surrounding terrain and infiltration of existing pavement joints and cracks.”

Former Rep. Vic Snyder (D-Ark.) pushed for the runway replacement a decade ago, and former base commander Col. Mike Minnihan complained about the condition of the runway during his command.

Little Rock Air Force Base is home to the active-duty 19th Airlift Wing and 314th training wing, as well as the National Guard’s 189th Airlift Wing and the new 913th Airlift Group, an Air Force Reserve Command unit.

All fly C-130s, either the legacy C-130H, which is a Vietnam-era plane, or the state-of-the-art C-130J.

In May, LRAFB had 31 C-130Js and approximately 50 C-130H models, a spokesman said.

Iveson said the runway was first built 200-feet-wide-by- 10,000-feet-long in 1954-55, and later extended by 2,000 feet to the east in 1956-57.

The original mission aircraft were B-47E bombers, RB-47 reconnaissance and KC-97 tankers for the Strategic Air Command. In 1964, the B-47Es were replaced with B-58s until the C-130s arrived in 1970.