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Running the Operational Runway

Senior Master Sgt. Tisha Gilmore, 51st  Civil Engineer Squadron first sergeant, holds the squadron guidon prior to a runway formation run on Osan Air Base, Oct. 4, 2013.  The 51st CES, along with more than 1,000 joint service personnel, participated in the run and a foreign object damage walk after construction of the 60-year-old runway was complete. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Siuta B. Ika)

Senior Master Sgt. Tisha Gilmore, 51st Civil Engineer Squadron first sergeant, holds the squadron guidon prior to a runway formation run on Osan Air Base, Oct. 4, 2013. The 51st CES, along with more than 1,000 joint service personnel, participated in the run and a foreign object damage walk after construction of the 60-year-old runway was complete. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Siuta B. Ika)

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- The 51st Civil Engineers, along with more than 1,000 joint service personnel, took part in the Osan runway opening "Fun run and FOD walk" (Foreign Object Damage). The 60-year-old runway was closed for 17 days for critical repairs and support construction for the new second runway.

As one of the premier installations for combat airpower in the Pacific theater, the Osan Air Base runway is a critical asset. It is the primary port of entry into Korea for all branches of service and must be capable of handling cargo and passengers on both
military and civilian aircraft.

First constructed in 1953, the original runway pavement has reached its life expectancy and often requires emergency maintenance, repair and restoration work to keep the mission going. Although closures are difficult and require mission relocations or loss of flying hours they are critical to the mission. Failure to execute this type of project would have caused an increase of FOD hazards due to numerous pavement spalls (small broken concrete areas), failed and deteriorated concrete slabs and concrete cracks. For our Airmen and aircraft, this equates to a significant safety hazard which could result in catastrophic damage with potential for loss of aircraft and human life. The 51st Civil Engineers rolled up their sleeves and started planning the way forward while providing assurance that the 51st Fighter Wing could "Fly, Fight, and Win Tonight" at any point during the closure.

Balancing the runway repairs with minimizing impact to the Team Osan mission was the responsibility of 1st Lt. Phillip Trudeau, 51st CES chief of airfield construction. His team consisted of design engineers, construction inspectors and pavement equipment operators. The team coordinated and planned the construction in sync with the Operations Support Squadron and all flight line users. The forethought and coordination of the team identified the scope of emergent runway repairs and several other construction projects in proximity to the runway that could only be completed during minimum operating times.

The emergent repairs were identified based on priority areas on the airfield that posed the highest safety hazard and the scope was determined to include removing rubber from the pavement and replacing more than 20 slabs of concrete pavement spanning 25 by 25 feet each at a depth of 18 inches. In addition to the slab work, 500 priority 1 spalls were identified and the airfield markings were in dire need of re-painting.

Additional construction projects made for great targets of opportunity during the closure. These projects included storm drainage system repairs on the ramps, sealant work on main runway, asphalt placement for taxiway shoulders, removing inoperable fuel tanks, installation of fuel pipes and a canopy, formwork for concrete placement of a roof, replacing underground electrical ducts, performing electric tie-in's to the lighting vault, and completing a major water line tie-in.

In all, the 6 million runway closure construction encompassed six different construction crews with more than 400 workers from multiple companies and in-house work performed by Airmen from the 51st CES Operation's Flight. Tech. Sgt. David Jauch served as the lead construction inspector, coordinating 24-hour operations in conjunction with support from the US Army Corps of Engineers Far East District. He cited this as the largest construction effort he has witnessed at one time in his 13 years of serving as an engineering assistant!

In true fashion, the civil engineers aimed to maximize the work that could be done on the runway while there were no flying operations. Technicians from various specialties within the squadron joined in the effort under the leadership of Senior Master Sgt. Michael Rosseau, Pavement Equipment operator and Heavy Repair Section chief. Together they completed their work three days ahead of schedule. However, the 72 hours gained could not be wasted and the engineers didn't stop - instead, they identified more opportunities to improve the airfield! In the end, work completed included repair work to 220 areas including priority 2 spalls, filling sink holes, and fixing a failed manhole. They wrapped it all up with 750 hours of sweeping and 84 labor hours conducting FOD walks (before the wing walk) to ensure the runway and all taxiways were clean before turning it over to the Operators. Meanwhile, the design engineers are still working a long term solution to over-lay the main runway to ensure Osan Air Base can continue to "Fight Tonight" any time and for decades to come with the engineers leading the way to make it happen!