Cairns Army Airfield
Cairns Army Airfield is located about 2 miles south of the Daleville Gate along Highway 85. The airfield is 1,297 acres in size with approximately 90 buildings. The field was acquired in 1952.
Fort Rucker is the Home of Army Aviation, where all of the Army's Aviators as well as many international and civilian personnel begin their rotary-wing flight training. Cairns Army Airfield [CAAF] has two hard surface runways oriented North-South and Northeast-Southwest with lengths of 4,500 feet and 5,000 feet. Hours of operations for CAAF control tower are 0600-0100 Monday-Friday local time. Precision and non-precision instrument approaches are available through an Army Radar Approach Control located at CAAF.
Fort Rucker's flying area covers approximately 32,000 square miles. ATTC is assigned a primary test area of approximately 2,150 square miles within the southern portion of that airspace, away from the US Army Aviation Center air traffic. An additional 300 square miles of airspace are available in the northwest corner and is designated as a call-up area to support airworthiness testing.
Considering its traffic volume, Cairns is one of the busiest airfields in the Army. In 1995 the tower handled 209,000 aircraft movements without incident, not bad considering much of the traffic involves rookie pilots. In an average day tower operators handle 800 to 1,000 movements. What makes Cairns unique is the density in which it operates. The airfield may be launching 70 to 120 aircraft in the morning and afternoon, and then 50 or 60 at night for training.
The Aviation Training Brigade consists of five battalions that conduct flight training at Fort Rucker at three training sites. 1st Battalion, 223d Aviation Regiment, Cairns Army Airfield and Knox Army Heliport conducts flight training in the CH-47, C-12 and conducts the Maintenance Test Pilot Courses, it also provides evaluations of flight training for contractors.
Policing the skies over Cairns Army Airfield at Fort Rucker, Ala., is one of the toughest assignments an Army air traffic controller can receive. In many foreign militaries, ATC is a job for officers. But in this Army, it's handled by enlisted soldiers. From the tower, these mass launches and landings appear to be orchestrated chaos handled by soldiers working in concert from three key positions.One soldier works as Local Control, in charge of all active runways and the airspace around the airfield. Ground Control is responsible for all taxiways and movement areas. Flight Data is a liaison between Local and Ground Control or the approach facilities.
Not only is traffic heavy at times, but ATCs are also dealing with fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft coming in from all points of the compass. To make Cairns more challenging, its two runways intersect, forcing tower operators to pay extra attention to traffic. It's not like they're dealing with 120 aircraft in a four-hour period. When they're all coming home to roost at the end of each training session, there are 120 aircraft in a 15-minute period. This flight routine is conducted several times a day, five and six days a week. That's the number one difference at Cairns and other airfields in the Army.
As one of eight national offices, the U.S. Army Operational Test and Evaluation Command Test and Evaluation Coordination Office [OPTEC TECO] for aviation is located at Cairns Army Airfield. TECO provides the USAAVNC community with a single point of entry into OPTEC and a direct access to operational test resources; monitors USAAVNC programs that may require an operational test, evaluation, or assessment; provides office space, shipping, receiving, logistics, and electronic communication capabilities to operational test and evaluation teams; and represents OPTEC (OEC and TEXCOM) at post conferences and in working groups. TECO also provides similar operational assistance to the U.S. Army Chemical School and U.S. Army Military Police School.
In September 1942, 1,259 additional acres south of Daleville were acquired for the construction of an airfield to support the training camp. It was known as Ozark Army Airfield until January 1959, when the name was changed to Cairns Army Airfield.
Major General Bogardus S. Cairns received a commission as a second lieutenant in the Cavalry following graduation from the United States Military Academy in 1932. In 1935 he served at Fort Riley, KS when he attended the Regular Troop Officers course and later the Special Advanced Equitation course at the Cavalry School. While at Riley, he instructed in horsemanship and was a member of the Olympic Pentathlon team. In 1939, he was assigned to the 13th Armored Regiment of the 1st Armored Division, serving in Africa as executive officer; later in Italy he commanded the 3d Battalion until 1944. He saw action in the campaigns at Oran, Tunisia, Naples-Foggia, Rome-Arno, and Anzio. Returning to the United States in 1944, General Cairns was assigned to the Operations Division, War Department General Staff , and later to the Staff and Faculty, U.S. Armored School, and Headquarters, First U.S. Army. In 1946-47, he attended the Combined Arms Course at the Command and General Staff College. In 1948 he attended the Armed Forces Staff College at Norfolk, Virginia. He returned to Fort Leavenworth in 1949 as an instructor in the Command and General Staff College (CGSC). He attended the 1951-52 class at the National War College. He returned to Europe in August 1953 and commanded Combat Command "R" of the 2d Armored Division until November of that year, when he became Assistant Chief of Staff, G3, at V Corps Headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany. Upon promotion to Brigadier General in October 1954, General Cairns became Commanding General, Base Section USAREUR Communications Zone, with headquarters at La Rochelle, France. He returned to the U.S. in 1955 and was deputy to the Assistant Chief of Staff, G3, Headquarters, Continental Army Command (CONARC), until he came to the Aviation School in February 1957 to begin flight training. He was awarded the rating of Army Aviator in May 1957. Shortly thereafter assumed command of the Aviation Center and became Commandant of the Aviation School. He was promoted to Major General on 1 September 1958. General Cairns was killed instantly on 9 December 1958 when his H-13 Sioux helicopter crashed minutes after take off in dense woods northwest of Fort Rucker headquarters. He was enroute to Matteson Range to observe a firepower rehearsal in preparation for a full-scale armed helicopter display.
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