Sioux City, Iowa --
After a long quiet summer, military aircraft operations have returned to the Sioux City, Iowa airport this week where the runway had been closed since April.
Iowa Air National Guard KC-135 aircraft from the 185th Air Refueling Wing were able return to their home base following the completion of a substantial runway improvement project at the airport.
While the runway construction was underway a group of unit members, along with some of the unit’s Stratotankers departed as part of an aviation deployment package in late April.
After their return in mid-summer, the deployed jets joined the rest of the unit’s aircraft at ANG bases in Topeka, Kan. and later in Sioux Falls, S.D. as construction continued. During their time away, Iowa Air Guard members continued to provide air refueling support for domestic operations while operating remotely.
The return of the aircraft brings a much-anticipated return to "normal" for aircraft maintainers and aircrew who have had a hefty commute over the past several months.
Master Sgt. Mike Caswell, 185th ARW Flight Chief said he had made a lot of trips form Sioux City to Topeka Kan. over the past seven months. During their drive, Caswell said they battled run-ins with deer and a number of flat tires among other hazards that come with a four-hour weekly road trip.
“We can’t wait to have them back,” Caswell said, “It has been a long summer, we are so glad to have them home!”
While there was little disruption in commercial air traffic in Sioux City, the extensive construction closed the longer of the two runways at the airport, that is used by the large KC-135 aircraft.
According to officials at the airport the project had construction crews replace 200 feet of overrun on both ends of the runway. The project also called for replacing 20-foot-wide shoulders on both sides of the 9000-foot runway.
During the construction the runway lighting was also replaced with up-to-date LED lighting that should allow improvements in “visual flying” as aircraft approach the runway.
Concrete repair was also completed around one of the arresting cables on the runway. The runway has two cables in place as a precaution for aircraft emergencies involving military fighter jets.
Similar to the way a stretch of roadway deteriorates over time, the project also involved extensive crack and spall repair, with thousands of damaged areas mended.
The return of the aircraft to Sioux City is none too soon, as the unit is obligated to meet readiness and mobility requirements.
Just as the unit’s aircraft returned home, the refueling wing is immediately rolling into a major aircraft generation exercise. The exercise is part of regular operational requirements that are part of the air refueling mission.
The welcome sound of jets on the ramp in Sioux City had crew chiefs scrambling to get them settled back at home just before the Thanksgiving Day holiday weekend. With the jets safely back, their return should allow everyone involved to enjoy time with family over the weekend break.