Friday, April 03, 2015

C-17s not fazed by shorter runway

by Airman 1st Class Zachary Cacicia
436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

4/2/2015 - DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del.  -- With runway renovations in full swing, this ongoing 18-month construction project will soon enter a new phase that will limit the operational capabilities of Team Dover's C-5M Super Galaxy fleet. But this does not mean that all of Team Dover's operational capabilities will end or be temporarily relocated.

Though well known for its armada of C-5Ms, it will be Team Dover's smaller, more tactical airlifter, the C-17A Globemaster III, which will continue to operate here during the construction.

"The C-17 was designed to be an intermediate strategic and tactical airlifter," said Lt. Col. Jason Mills, 3d Airlift Squadron commander. "It has long range capabilities, but a tactical capacity as well; it was designed to land on short fields."

Since February 2, Dover AFB's north-south runway 01-19 has been closed to undergo a complete renovation. The base's other runway, 14-32, is still fully operational. But when the next phase of construction begins this summer on the two runways' intersection, this will cut the length of runway 14-32 from 12,900 feet to 6,000 feet.

This cut will limit the operational capabilities of Team Dover's C-5Ms. They will continue to be able to fly in and out of Dover AFB for maintenance at an absolute minimum weight. During this time period of limited operations, the C-5M fleet will be temporarily moved to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.

"We will be heading up to JB MDL in the June timeframe which will allow the C-5 mission to continue," said Lt. Col. Mark Radio, 436th Operations Support Squadron director of operations. "The beauty is our relationship that we have with our joint base to the north. It is close in proximity so our people will be able to come back and see their families during that timeframe, minimizing the stress."

According to Capt. Justin Brozzetti, 3d AS squadron tactics chief, Team Dover is being proactive in dealing with the upcoming changes, especially with the C-17s and their crews.

"The Operations Group here has said, we know this is going to be difficult for pilots," said Brozzetti. "To look at the airfield, it's going to be completely different, so let's start planning ahead."

In preparation, Team Dover's C-17 flight simulator is undergoing a few changes to better help pilots familiarize themselves with the new look of the airfield.
"We are modifying the digital database of Dover," said Miguel Lutman, L-3 Communications site manager. "This is so it looks like what the construction will look like when they're in the process of doing it."

Working in conjunction with OSS, Lutman, a contractor and Reservist C-17 pilot himself, has taken charge to better prevent mishaps during the construction time period. Not only will C-17 pilots from the 3d AS and Reservist 326th AS be able to practice, but all C-17 pilots throughout the Air Force will have access to this database.

"This is so the pilots can practice before it actually happens," Lutman said. "And so pilots from other bases can see what it's going to look like."

Only minor limitations will affect the C-17s.

"We will routinely land on 3,500 feet of runway," Mills said. "We will be given 6,000 feet of runway; we will be able to land and take off on that, that distance will only limit our weight capacity."

According Brozzetti, the shorter runway may force the C-17s to add an additional leg to their missions because of the takeoff weight limitations.

"We may have to pick up fuel at [Joint Base] McGuire[-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey] or [Joint Base] Andrews, [Maryland] to have enough to make it across the ocean to Europe," said Brozzetti. "We are preparing for this; more in-route stops to pick up fuel."

It is expected that this phase of runway construction will last from June until December 2015.

"I have the absolute confidence in my crews," Mills said. "This is what we train for-- we are trained in a tactical mindset."

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