AFCEC teams support Seymour Johnson through Hurricane Matthew response

  • Published
  • By Susan Lawson
  • AFCEC Public Affairs
Two teams from the Air Force Civil Engineer Center Operations Directorate travelled to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, recently to provide Hurricane Matthew destruction repair and assessment.

Seymour Johnson AFB was hit by historic flooding from Hurricane Matthew and urgently requested the assistance of the civil engineer maintenance inspection and repair team, or CEMIRT, and the airfield pavement evaluation, or APE, team. The teams supported the replacement of a generator and aircraft arresting systems, or AAS, and also provided an airfield pavement evaluation that surveyed runway pavement conditions.

The APE team travelled to the base with their equipment in tow to assess the areas where flood waters caused potential airfield pavement concerns. The team investigated and surveyed the pavement situation and found the runway structural integrity to be intact. By evaluating the runways, the team was able to ensure the safety of aircraft and Airmen executing the 4th Fighter Wing’s F-15E and 916th Air Refueling Wing’s KC-135 flying missions.

“Approximately 25 percent of the airfield was affected by flood water,” said Capt. Sean Gann, APE team chief. “This extreme event caused several possible concerns such as reduced soil shear strength and voids under the pavement layer. All areas of concern were tested by primarily non-destructive means and no significant change in pavement strength was found when compared to the results of previous evaluations. We concluded the airfield is fully capable of supporting aircraft stationed at Seymour Johnson AFB.”

The base experienced record level flooding including sections of the runway, taxiways and an air traffic control tower that housed a generator. CEMIRT provided a generator to replace a flood-damaged unit, which supported the air traffic control tower. Failure to replace the flood-damaged generator at the control tower would have left the critical facility without long-term, reliable backup power, which could impact the base’s flying mission.  

“CEMIRT responded to an urgent request from the 4th Civil Engineer Squadron Operations Flight at Seymour Johnson AFB to provide emergency aircraft arresting system, or AAS, and generator support after the base experienced massive flooding due to Hurricane Matthew,” said Frank Burrier, CEMIRT manager at Tyndall AFB. “CEMIRT’s AAS overhaul program immediately provided two out-of-cycle BAK-12 AAS absorbers to replace two pit-mounted units which had been completely submerged during the floods. Additionally, the emergency generator supporting the air traffic control tower was also damaged by the flood waters.”

CEMIRT had an on-hand generator the sufficient size and voltage from their excess generator re-utilization program and quickly delivered it and the AAS absorbers to the base. The 4th civil engineer squadron, or CES, power production team at Seymour Johnson was able to install the new BAK-12 AAS absorbers on the airfield after the flood to ensure continued safety of landing aircraft. Typically, CEMIRT has the ability to install the AAS but defers to the base; in this case the Airmen at the 4th CES were already trained and able to install the gear themselves.

“We were very appreciative on the responsiveness, flexibility and the level of support AFCEC’s APE and CEMIRT teams provided Seymour Johnson after the impacts of Hurricane Matthew on the installation,” said Maj. John Casey, 4th CES operations flight commander. “The technical expertise these professionals demonstrated gave our mission partners a sense of confidence for safe flying operations and showcased the capabilities civil engineers can provide.”

CEMIRT tackled the removal of the air traffic control tower’s damaged emergency generator and subsequently installed their available excess generator at no cost to the base. Once the installation was complete, the new back-up power system for the control tower was successfully tested by 4th CES technicians in coordination with air traffic control personnel. CEMIRT transported the damaged generator and AAS absorbers back to Tyndall for overhaul and/or repair as required. Mission accomplished.