Written by Leejay Lockhart
Fort Campbell Public Affairs Office
Fort Campbell, KY – Campbell Army Airfield’s main runway will close for repairs April 10th and should reopen in late July or early August.
The $28 million project includes resurfacing the runway, repairing ramps, taxiways, adding lights to the secondary runway, and moving lights to make them easier to maintain on the main runways.
Terry Ennis, airfield manager for Campbell Army Airfield, said the repairs also will decrease the runway width by 50 feet to the industry standard of 150 feet in width. Its overall length will decrease from 11,822 feet to 10,500 feet. The excess portion of the runways will become paved overrun that serve as a safety measure to decrease damage to aircraft on takeoff and landings if something goes wrong.
The runway’s pavement condition index, which is a scale determined by rigorous inspection of a runway’s surface, dropped precipitously from 2013 to 2015, Ennis said. This necessitated the repairs.
“Our PCI in 2013 on the runway was 71,” he said. “The Air Force doesn’t like anything below a 70. In two years it went from a 71 to a 36 and that’s why the Air Force started getting concerned and we started having to look at redoing our runway, because they don’t want to land on anything below 40.”
The last time Campbell Army Airfield underwent major repairs was approximately 10 years ago. Runways deteriorate overtime based on usage and weather. Runways made of asphalt normally last for 15 to 20 years before requiring a major overhaul.
“We had problems with the last repair that was done,” Ennis said. “This area has a high degree of difficulty with aggregate … the rock that they used on this project was porous, so over a period of time as water gets into the rock and expands and contracts due to temperature changes, it basically started popping the rock out of the runway.[That] creates what we call FOD, foreign object debris, which has caused damage to engines on airplanes and engines on airplanes are a million dollars plus.”
“The problem with FOD on a helicopter is that what the rotor blades are turning they’ll suck all of that stuff off the ground into the blade and it tears down the blade, especially sand,” Ennis said. “The average blade on a helicopter is about $250,000 for one piece.”
Besides pieces of aggregate loosening from the asphalt and turning into FOD, the runways is experiencing cracking outside of the seams, which can eventually result in potential aircraft damaging potholes in the runway. Concrete ramps also are cracking and the surface is deteriorating resulting in FOD.
Because of the cost of the repairs, the Army Corps of Engineers set out the contract.
“The Army Corps of Engineers is in charge of that and the Corps of Engineers is ensuring [contractors] use the proper [aggregate] mix on the runway, because your mix on the runway isn’t the same asphalt mix you have on a highway,” Ennis said. “It’s more dense for strength purposes.”
The heliport at Campbell Army Airfield will continue to operate during the repairs, so it will not interfere with the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, operations. The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment operates from sod areas near the runway and will continue flying without interruptions during the repairs.
During the repairs C-17s will divert to Sabre Army Airfield and larger aircraft will land at Nashville International Airport. However, this will have no impact on welcome home ceremonies, which will continue to in accordance with Fort Campbell regulation 600-8. The regulation requires welcome home ceremonies for flights of 30 or more personnel occur at Hanger 3. Flights with less than 30 personnel will continue to have welcome home ceremonies at the unit area.
To support flights at Sabre Army Airfield and Nashville International Airport, Ennis said the flight operations team will move aircraft ground support equipment, ground power units, air start units, forklifts and a K-loader to each location. The Logistics Readiness Center will facilitate the move to Sabre Army Airfield and commercial long-haul will move the equipment to Nashville, where Fort Campbell has contracted space to temporarily conduct operations there.
Work on repairing some of the taxiways has already begun and to save money and time is using an innovative method for repairing the concrete. Instead of breaking up the concrete with jackhammers and damaging the rock sub-base layer, workers cut the concrete into sections and construction equipment with a suction device on it will lift all of the concrete sections onto a dump-truck for disposal.
“So an airfield is roughly based on the type of aircraft you service,” Ennis said. “The runway is only 16-20 inches thick. It’s a primary [overlay] with a concrete underlay … you basically put four inches of asphalt on top of this concrete layer and you groove the asphalt and what it does is allow the water to run off the runway, which helps braking action on the runway.”
A mill similar to ones used on highway construction will grind up the asphalt on the runway. Crews will examine the underlying concrete to ensure the concrete is structurally sound then repave the runway. The repairs will also work to increase the pavement condition number of sections of the airfield to increase the aircraft weight those sections can handle.
Ennis has worked at Fort Campbell for about 22 years and has been in his current job since 2012. He said that while airfields and runways can be expensive to maintain and operate that Campbell Army Air Field is very important to both Fort Campbell and the Army as a whole because it supports not only the 101st Abn. Div., but it also supports the 160ths SOAR and the 5th Special Forces Group.
Both of the special operations units constantly use Campbell Army Airfield to deploy at a moment’s notice around the world to defend the nation, even more than the 101st Abn. Div. uses the airfield for its own deployments, Ennis said, which is why it is essential that the runways and taxiways remain in good condition.