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Airfield repairs complete, driver care required

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- A year of planning came to fruition as a team of 48th Fighter Wing Airmen and contractors completed $1.2 million in airfield repairs here July 5.

During the construction, aircraft relocated to RAF Mildenhall and RAF Coningsby; ensuring the project had little effect on the flying mission.

The aircraft were at those bases from June 26 through July 6, while the project was completed on time.

"I was really impressed with the repair team, because they really came through and knocked it out," Master Sgt. Danielle Settles, 48th Operations Support Squadron airfield manager said. "They handed it over first time with no further repairs needed."

Repairs included a 2,000-foot section being resurfaced, rubber being removed and the runway being repainted.

"In order to keep the 48th Fighter Wing flying we need to maintain the airfield infrastructure," Sergeant Settles said. "These repairs were necessary to keep them flying."

Now that the repairs are complete, special care is required by all who drive on the runway.

"All drivers are restricted from turning their vehicle 90 degrees or more on the [resurfaced portion of the runway]," said Staff Sgt. Edgardo Lebron, 48th OSS Airfield Management Operations supervisor, in a July 6 e-mail to flight line driving training managers. "[The resurfaced portion] is vulnerable to shoving for one year and any acute angled turns (90 degrees or more) will not be allowed."

The care is required because the surface of the runway is made of "porous friction close," which is a special material that acts like a sponge and allows water to dry quickly so aircraft can land safely. As the surface ages, it loses its sponge-like abilities.

"The portion that was [resurfaced] was beyond its usable lifespan due to it collecting water and causing ponding on the runway," said Master Sgt. Settles. "During freezing temperatures it caused icing."

The rubber that had to be removed was due to buildup from aircraft tires as they land. They leave tread marks when they touch down. After time, all those rubber tread marks can build up.

"If it gets too thick it can cause a lack of braking action," Sergeant Settles said.

While rubber removal and repainting the entire runway is an annual project, runway resurfacing is not. The projects were scheduled at the same time to minimize impact on the wing.

"Next year around May we'll be doing it again," she said "We'll be resurfacing the portion of the runway that wasn't done this year."

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