SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Military aircraft operations returned to the Sioux City airport this week with the completion of a substantial runway improvement project.
While the construction was underway, Iowa Air National Guard members of the 185th Air Refueling Wing and some of the unit’s KC-135 Stratotankers departed as part of an aviation deployment package in late April.
After their return in midsummer, the deployed jets joined the rest of the unit’s aircraft at ANG bases in Topeka, Kansas, and later, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, 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 the past several months.
Master Sgt. Mike Caswell, 185th ARW flight chief, said he made many trips from Sioux City to Topeka. During the drive, Caswell said he battled run-ins with deer, flat tires and other hazards on the weekly four-hour 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 minimal disruption of commercial air traffic in Sioux City, the extensive construction closed the longer of the two runways at the airport, which the big KC-135 aircraft use.
Airport officials said construction crews replaced 200 feet of overrun on both ends of the 9,000-foot runway and 20-foot-wide shoulders on both sides.
The workers also replaced runway lighting with LED lighting that should improve “visual flying” as aircraft approach the runway.
Concrete was also repaired around one of the arresting cables. The runway has two cables as a precaution for aircraft emergencies involving military fighter jets.
The project also involved extensive crack and spall repair, with thousands of damaged areas mended.
The return of the aircraft to Sioux City comes none too soon, as the unit must meet readiness and mobility requirements.
The refueling wing is immediately rolling into a major aircraft generation exercise as part of regular operational requirements and the air refueling mission.