DAFB runway work nearing completion

Dover AFB’s north-south Runway 01-19 is scheduled to reopen on Sept. 23. (U.S. Air Force/Zachary Cacicia)

Dover AFB’s north-south Runway 01-19 is scheduled to reopen on Sept. 23. (U.S. Air Force/Zachary Cacicia)

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE — The skies above Dover AFB are about to get busier as the installation will soon return to its full operational capability with the reopening of Runway 01-19.

Since Feb. 2, 2015, Dover AFB’s north-south Runway 01-19 has been closed to undergo a complete renovation intended to extend its lifespan an additional 50 to 75 years. The second phase of this construction project is nearly complete and this runway is scheduled to reopen on Sept. 23, 2016.

“Team Dover will be back up and able to run at a full pace with our full complement of C-5s and C-17s operating back at home,” said Col. Doug Hall, 436th Operations Group commander. “Our new runway will have full precision instrument capability so bad weather will not affect our ability for any aircraft, including AFMAO’s (Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations) Dignified Transfer missions. We will be able to support wide-body commercial cargo aircraft to utilize the full capabilities of our Super Port.”

Dover AFB has been without the use of 01-19 for year-and-a-half, but has also been without the full use of Runway 14-32. In February 2016, the construction project reached a stage in which the intersection of both runways needed to be worked on. This temporarily cut 14-32’s length from 12,900 feet to 6,000 feet, limiting the operational capabilities of Team Dover’s C-5M Super Galaxy fleet. The C-5Ms continued to fly in and out of Dover AFB for maintenance, but at an absolute minimum weight. During this time period of limited operations, the C-5M fleet has been temporarily moved to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, to ensure the continued success of the Air Force’s global mobility mission. During this entire time, a contingent of C-5 maintainers and other support Airmen, plus their equipment, operated at JB MDL.

“I am most impressed with the professionalism all Airmen of Team Dover that helped minimize the impact to our global mobility mission,” said Hall. “Everyone involved with planning the split operations ensured we could continue operating both our weapon systems and provided for a safe airfield environment during our short runway operations.”

This period of split operations was only a success because of the teamwork between Team Dover and JB MDL.

“We are grateful to the 305th Air Mobility Wing and 87th Air Base Wing for supporting us so professionally and well,” said Hall. “They not only provided more than just a space to work from but also partnered with us in our C-5 mission. They truly embraced us and made us feel at home. The partnership exemplifies the best qualities and dedication to the mission of all three wings.”

When 01-19 reopens, both the C-5M fleet and these maintainers from the 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron will return to Dover AFB, their home station.

Lt. Col. Charles Throckmorton, 9th Airlift Squadron commander, who has acted as the operations advisor to the runway team throughout the duration of the runway project, is looking forward to seeing his squadron’s C-5Ms return home.

“The mission tempo isn’t going to change much with the runway opening up,” said Throckmorton. “The main thing that this will alleviate is the roughly two days added to each mission.”

With Dover’s C-5Ms at JB MDL, this required the additional time and hassle of busing aircrews back-and-forth between bases. With the aircraft returning to Dover AFB, this will give aircrews additional time at their home station, meaning more time with their families.

“The members of the MXG (maintenance group), LRS (logistic readiness squadron), AFE (aircrew flight equipment), and the 9th Airlift Squadron met the challenges associated with operating out of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, the many days away from home and families, and exceeded our expectations as they delivered excellence since the end of February,” Hall said. “We cannot thank all them enough for a job extremely well done and look forward to having all of Team Dover back home.”

But the work on the airfield is not yet complete.

“On the 19th, the contractors give the runway back to the government,” said Throckmorton. “The Air Force Standards Agency and the [Federal Aviation Administration] will bring a flight check crew in. They will verify that all the new lighting, markings on the ground and the new instrument approach equipment is installed correctly and certified so that aircraft can land safely in all conditions.”

This inspection will take place from Sept. 19 to 23.

A ribbon cutting ceremony, open to anyone who has base access, is scheduled for 10 a.m. Sept. 23, 2016. This event will feature static C-5M and C-17A Globemaster III displays that will be open for viewing and tours, but its main purpose is to celebrate the effective partnerships between various organizations at every level of cooperation that led to a successful conclusion to this phase of construction. This event will conclude by featuring the first use of the newly renovated runway, when a C-5M and a C-17A touch down for landings. Representatives from Dover AFB, JB MDL, various contractors that participated in construction, along with local and state officials are expected to attend.

Throckmorton has been especially pleased with the partnership between maintenance and operations.

“The partnership has been the biggest thing,” said Throckmorton. “In the old days with the ‘B’ models, maintenance and operations never talked to one another. But now, I talk to the maintenance guys almost every single day.”

Though Runway 01-19 will soon open, the construction project as a whole is not yet complete. Dover’s shorter Runway 14-32 will be closed to allow construction on a portion in close proximity to runway 01-19, and in addition, several taxiways. This portion of construction is anticipated to be completed during the summer of 2017, ending the $102 million, 28 month-long construction project.

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