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Humphreys’ airfield gets facelift

At Camp Humphreys in South Korea Friday, work is underway to make major improvements at Desiderio Army Airfield. The work, to be completed in late May, includes repaving of a portion of the runway and installation of a fire hydrant system. In this photo, workers fill cracks that have formed under the runway’s surface.

FRANKLIN FISHER / S&S

By FRANKLIN FISHER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 26, 2009

CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — Workers here are doing millions of dollars worth of upgrades to one of the Army’s busiest overseas airfields.

Crews are repaving a major portion of the runway at Desiderio Army Airfield, adding shoulders and painting new markings. They’re also repositioning lights and improving fire supression capabilities.

Desiderio logs up to 74,000 "aircraft movements" yearly, said John Albonetti, airfield division chief at Humphreys. About half are regular takeoffs or landings; the rest are flights in which pilots practice maneuvers that involve using a runway, he said.

Work began March 20 and is to finish May 29, Albonetti said. The airfield and its 8,124-foot runway remain closed until then.

Humphreys’ fixed-wing aircraft are operating out of nearby Osan Air Base in the interim, officials said.

A 6,026-foot stretch of runway is being repaved. Workers will dig up the existing surface, fill cracks that have formed underneath, then lay fresh asphalt.

"It gives a smooth landing surface," Albonetti said. "Without the repavement, if the road breaks apart and creates foreign object debris, it can damage aircraft."

Laying wide shoulders is another aid to safety, he said.

Each shoulder puts a 25-foot margin of clear surface between the runway and the nearby grass, and reduces chances that debris from the grass ends up on the runway.

The new lines and numerals being painted will help pilots guide their planes into the right "touchdown zone" of the runway, Albonetti said.

Lights at the runway’s south end are being moved so they align with the new markings, he said.

And in a feature that can be a big help in fighting runway fires, workers are installing a set of "flush-mount" fire hydrants along the runway’s east edge at 500-foot intervals, he said.

Each hydrant protrudes no more than three inches above ground, so it poses less hazard to an aircraft than a higher-standing hydrant might.

Fire trucks would be able to keep their water tanks full by drawing continually from the hydrant system, Albonetti said.

"Before, the fire department relied solely upon the truck," he said, "and if they ran out of water they’d have to go off of the runway ... to refill."

In addition to those upgrades, workers have removed potentially hazardous airfield obstructions.

They dug up about 10 pine trees and replanted them elsewhere on post.

And they hauled away 16 concrete pillbox-like defensive structures with firing slits.

The repaving, shoulders and re-marking are part of a $2.2 million contract, Albonetti said. The runway lights and related work are $40,000. The hydrant system costs $327,000, officials said.


At Camp Humphreys in South Korea Friday, work is underway to make major improvements at Desiderio Army Airfield. The work, to be completed in late May, includes repaving of a portion of the runway and installation of a fire hydrant system, among other upgrades.
FRANKLIN FISHER / S&S

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