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Mission continues despite flightline closure

Crew members work to put in the last piece of concrete on the runway in June, 2004. Similar work is being done to the north side of the flightline, which will be closed May 4-18. Forty concrete slabs and 90,000 linear feet of joint seals will be replaced. The project will cost about $1.5 million. U.S. Air Force file photo by Sue Sapp

Crew members work to put in the last piece of concrete on the runway in June, 2004. Similar work is being done to the north side of the flightline, which will be closed May 4-18. Forty concrete slabs and 90,000 linear feet of joint seals will be replaced. The project will cost about $1.5 million. U.S. Air Force file photo by Sue Sapp

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- The Robins flightline will be shut down for 14 days, May 4-18, for repairs, but Team Robins members are working to ensure the mission impact is minimal.

"We look at the runway as a weapon system and any weapon system requires maintenance and this is our preventive maintenance," said 1st Lt. Anthony Hayes, airfield operations flight operations officer.

He added no one wants to close the flightline, but in order to continue the mission; the preventive maintenance must be completed.

It will be a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week operation in order to complete the repairs in the two-week time frame and with minimal impact on Robins' mission, he said.

One of the biggest challenges was finding a time to repair the flightline that would work for all the units affected by the closure.

"We came up with these dates because they would minimize the impact to all involved," he said. "Mainly it will inconvenience the 116th (Air Control Wing) and the 19th (Air Refueling Group), which will be going TDY with their aircraft during the entire closure," Lieutenant Hayes said.

He added the 402nd Maintenance Wing will also be affected by the closure because it will be unable to bring aircraft in and out for depot maintenance during the closure.

"I know runway closures are a fact of life. We have to do them and we have to maintain our infrastructure. We have been working for at least three months to try and position ourselves where it will impact our customers the least in terms of accelerating aircraft to get them out in advance so we don't have any ready to go and trapped here by the runway closure," said Brig. Gen. Andy Busch, commander of the 402nd MXW.

The 116th Air Control Wing will be moving to the Savannah Combat Readiness Training Center, where they will continue with their local and school course requirements and others will deploy to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada for an exercise.

The 19th ARG will also be relocating during the closure. Lt. Col. Blaine Holt, acting group commander, said the closure offers an opportunity to exercise the group's abilities as a mobility command by showing their capability to achieve their mission from anywhere in the world.

"We have most of our jets or the majority of our fleet will go to our sister wing at MacDill Air Force Base, (Fla). A contingency of our maintainers and crew members will be taking care of our aircraft and flying missions from there," said Colonel Holt.

He added the people left behind during the closure will spend their time catching up with maintenance, training and issues with their impending deactivation in May 2008.

The repairs will help eliminate some of the risks of foreign-object damage by repairing the concrete slabs on the flightline.

"The degradation of the slab can cause FOD, which can damage the aircraft when landing," said Lieutenant Hayes.

The project will cost about $1.5 million and will consist of the replacement of 40 concrete slabs and 90,000 linear feet of joint seals, which go in between the slabs to keep water out, Lieutenant Hayes said.

Slabs identified for replacement failed due to transverse, which are diagonal or longitudinal cracks. Lieutenant Hayes said. These types of cracks occur when the slab cracks all the way through either diagonally or down the middle. Temporary repairs are made to the slabs when it cracks in half or when corners are broken off, Lieutenant Hayes said.

"We have had to come in and make temporary repairs. We have come in and cut out corners and replace them with quick-dry concrete," he said.

He said the majority of the slabs being replaced are located on the north end of the flightline, because in 2004 similar repairs were made to about 100 slabs, most of which were located on the south end.

"It's an expected thing when you have two-miles of concrete - at times you are going to have to do construction. It's a fact of life in the world of concrete; it wears out," said Chief Master Sgt. Billy Messer, 116th ACW airfield manager. "We just have to plan accordingly, so we don't totally lose out on all the requirements the air crews need for flying."

The project will also include the beginning of the asphalting of the Bravo and Charlie taxiways. The asphalt work on the taxiways will continue after the flightline reopens until June 2.