Dover runway reopens after extensive renovation

  • Published
  • By Steve Warns
  • AFCEC Public Affairs
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – The C-5M Super Galaxy and C-17A Globemaster that landed Sept. 23 on Runway 01-19 at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, capped the third portion of a four-phase project almost two years in the making for the Air Force Civil Engineer Center.

Since February 2015, AFCEC executed the renovation of the 9,600-foot-long, 200-foot-wide airstrip critical to the U.S. Air Force’s rapid global mobility mission. The renovated runway contains 220,000 cubic yards of concrete; 1,040 lighting fixtures; and 209 miles of cable. With routine maintenance and care, the runway is expected to last 50 to 75 years.

“Executing the Dover runway project allows the Air Force to meet its mission requirements by maintaining a cadre of fully trained project managers with critical engineering skills; enabling Air Force assets to manage Air Force-centric projects; and allowing personnel to quickly shift focus to support any contingencies that might arise while additional project managers are trained,” said Megan Robare, strategic design and construction project manager for AFCEC who serves the Dover runway repair project manager.

Dover is the Department of Defense’s largest aerial port and accounts for about 20 percent of the department’s strategic airlift capability. It also flies resupply missions to Afghanistan for Air Mobility Command, and the remains of fallen service members pass through Dover Port Mortuary.

AFCEC’s core competencies typically include: airfields, hangars, mission critical renovations and facility additions, infrastructure, and sensitive compartmented information facilities, or SCIFs, to develop and deliver strengths essential to the U.S. Air Force’s capital investments, said Lt. Col. Matt Robinson, AFCEC strategic design and construction chief.

“AFCEC execution is intended to engage when it is advantageous for delivery of best-value propositions,” Robinson said. “One of our core competencies as combat engineers is to build runways and airfields that are sustainable. In a wartime scenario, we can transform, at least part of our organization, to handle execution stateside, but also to deploy people and lead execution in a contingency environment.”

At Dover, AFCEC awarded a $98.3 million contract to Versar, Inc. and joint venture partner Johnson Controls Federal Systems. The objectives were to meet the requirements for modified heavy strength runway pavement to handle C-5s, C-17s and 747s; installing an instrument landing system; and repairing the runway approach lighting.

The runway work was chosen from an integrated major command priority list of projects referred to as the construction tasking order, or CTO. The project was selected to achieve specific requirements, but the main priority is to ensure all airstrips are in the best working condition.

During the renovation, the C-5M fleet was dispatched to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.

Concrete touchdown areas of the runway, which were 70 years old, suffered from alkali silica reaction, or ASR, distress that resulted in significant cracks. The damage allowed water to enter and destroy the concrete during freeze-thaw cycles. Also, long stretches of one of the runways were as much as two feet lower than the intersecting runway.

An AFCEC analysis showed if the runway wasn’t repaired, it would continue to degrade to the point of being unusable, and the increased repair and maintenance costs would adversely affect Dover’s mission.

There were challenges during the project, ranging from winter weather conditions that led to delays to the discovery of old manholes and electrical work under the runway requiring excavation.

Those problems were solved because of constant communication, said John Sclesky, 436th Civil Engineer Squadron Engineering Flight Chief at Dover.

“Quality and compliance were always the focus, and we were always looking for ways to solve both,” he said. “They made sure to communicate to leadership, Air Mobility Command and the stakeholders. There were no surprises because communication was increased to the point where AFCEC communicated on a daily basis. It was demanding, but necessary to accomplish what we’ve accomplished.

“It definitely shows AFCEC has the necessary experience as well as the structure and capacity to execute projects like this,” Sclesky added. “A runway project has unique demands. They showed that they can get that and execute an extremely complex and important aspect to the mission.”

AFCEC is anticipating executing a runway project at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, but it’s also executing airfield design and construction projects at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, and Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, and Kirtland AFB, New Mexico.