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RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — A major portion of military air traffic in the European theater will be rerouted for 10 days in September when the Ramstein Air Base runway closes for repairs.

The runway will shut down from Sept. 13-17, then partially reopen Sept. 18-22, while contractors repair deteriorated concrete and asphalt, Lt. Col. Cliff Puckett, commander of the 435th Operations Support Squadron, said Monday. The runway is to reopen completely on Sept. 23, though it may take a few days for all air traffic to return.

The runway has deteriorated due to heavy use during Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom, and the normal freeze-thaw cycle of the changing seasons, he said.

Airfield managers had hoped that a new runway under construction would be completed in time to avoid major repairs on the old landing strip. But work on the new runway, being readied for the transfer of all military air traffic from Rhein-Main Air Base to Ramstein by December 2005, is three months behind schedule, Puckett said.

“We haven’t had the luxury of saying we’re just going to close a 9,200-foot national asset that we really need,” Puckett said.

But, as the OEF and OIF missions have “matured” into a more predictable schedule, managers were able to reorganize the average of 90 takeoffs and landings a day at Ramstein to work around the construction. The repairs will cost $900,000.

“We need a viable runway at least until April 2005,” when the new runway is expected to be finished, Puckett said.

Roughly 3,000 duty and space-available passengers will be affected by the detours, said Capt. Kieran Keelty of Ramstein’s aerial port operations office.

Large cargo lifters such as C-5s and contracted 747s will be unable to use Ramstein the entire 10 days, Puckett said. But all other, more versatile and smaller planes will be able to return to Ramstein Sept. 18, when 7,000 feet of the 9,200-foot runway reopen.

The closure means that cargo and passenger traffic, including movement of wounded troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, and training flights, will head to at least six alternate airfields in Germany, England, Kyrgyzstan and Iceland, Puckett said.

If needed, passengers and wounded either will be bused from alternate airfields to their destinations or flown there on Army helicopters. Some space-available travel from Ramstein will be completely canceled during the first five days of the closure.

The closure of Europe’s busiest military airfield has forced Ramstein airfield managers and Air Mobility Command leaders to reroute traffic as follows:

• Sept. 13-17: At least four of Ramstein’s 86th Airlift Wing aircraft, which primarily carry cargo and passengers to the Balkans, will be rerouted to Spangdahlem Air Base. Duty passengers on their way to the region still will be processed at the Ramstein Air Terminal, but will be bused to Spangdahlem to catch flights. Showtimes for an average of 300 passengers on those flights that week will increase from three to at least six hours, to ensure they make their connections.

Wounded troops from Iraq and Afghanistan will be flown to Rhein-Main and bused to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. Patients who need to get to LRMC immediately will be airlifted there by Army helicopters, which will be staged at a private airfield in Zweibrücken.

The 86th Airlift Wing’s fleet of C-21s and C-20s, used primarily for transport of “distinguished visitors,” such as military brass and congressional delegates, will operate out of Zweibrücken. Distinguished visitors will be driven to Ramstein or, in some cases, taken there by Army helicopters.

Emergency medical evacuation C-21s, which transport ill patients from around the European theater to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, will be staged at Zweibrücken. Patients then will be bused or flown by helicopter to LRMC.

Ramstein’s 37th Airlift Squadron will conduct a training deployment to Naval Air Station Keflavik, Iceland.

• Sept. 13-22: Air Mobility Command aircraft from the United States and around the globe will land at RAF Mildenhall, England. Cargo already in place at Ramstein will be trucked to Mildenhall, where it will be loaded on AMC planes for transport. Cargo landing at Mildenhall will be trucked back to Ramstein.

AMC will send 55 people to Mildenhall to help handle the increased operations — about 11 extra planes a week.

AMC will reroute three flights a week, with an average of 14 Space-A duty passengers each, from Ramstein to Rhein-Main Air Base or to Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan, for transport to Kandahar, Karshi Khanabad and Bagram, Afghanistan.

“Residual” air traffic, such as NATO aircraft, Air National Guard and Air Reserve planes, and any others, will use any available airfields in the European theater.

• Space-available travel from Ramstein will be canceled Sept. 13-17. From Sept. 18-22, the only space-A travel in Europe will be aboard C-130 “channel” flights within the theater.


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