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OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — When the Air Force closed the runway here for repairs in September, it meant big changes for pilots and ground crews.

The roar of jets on the 9,000-foot runway vanished from September to November, while workers did spot repaving, widened several taxiways and installed new lights and electric cables.

Osan officials had to move their F-16 fighters and A-10 attack planes north to Suwon Air Base, a South Korean air force installation. Osan’s U-2 spy planes shifted to Kadena Air Base on Okinawa.

And Osan’s mechanics faced a daily bus ride to and from Suwon to work on their aircraft.

But since the $6.6 million project finished on Nov. 14, the Osan runway reopened, and the planes once again thunder into the skies over the nearby hills and rice fields.

Flight-line personnel and pilots say the improvements are evident.

Workers widened taxiways C, D, and E from 50 feet to 75 feet, which means they’re now usable by heavy cargo planes such as the Boeing 747, the C-17 Globemaster and even the mammoth C-5 Galaxy. That gives traffic controllers more leeway when working with heavy aircraft, said Senior Airman Tiffany Begley, an air-traffic controller with the 51st Operations Support Squadron.

“It’s more of a convenience for us controllers,” Begley said.

And for pilots working at night or in bad weather, the new, brighter lighting makes it easier to spot the runway, said Capt. Robert Bradeen, an F-16 pilot with the 36th Fighter Squadron.

“I’ve definitely noticed that the new lighting is brighter and easier to pick up from farther from the field,” said Bradeen. That’s especially important because Osan gets its share of fog and haze, which reduces visibility, and its pilots frequently perform night maneuvers.

“On lower-visibility days, we fly instrument approaches to come back to the base,” said Bradeen, “and at night we fly instrument approaches.”

But as they head in for landing, the pilots “transition” from their instruments to actually looking directly at the runway, said Bradeen.

“And the runway lighting on at those times is what we use to acquire the runway and transition to land on it,” Bradeen said. “With the brighter runway lighting it allow us to see the runway lighting easier and farther out.”

Workers also repainted taxi lines, which made them easier for pilots to see, Bradeen said.

South Korean firms performed the work under contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Widening taxiways cost about $1.3 million; repairing taxiway lights, $1.5 million, maintaining and repairing the runway, $2.1 million, and repairing airfield lights, $1.7 million.


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