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Tyndall airfield pavement evaluation team heads to Haiti

by Jennifer Elmore
Air Force Civil Engineer Support Agency

1/26/2010 - TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) -- A three-person Air Force airfield pavement evaluation team from the Air Force Civil Engineer Support Agency here will spend at least 30 days in Haiti identifying construction repairs needed to increase the capacity of the country's airfields. Four RED HORSE heavy construction operators from Malmstrom AFB, Mont., are driving to Tyndall AFB to join the AFCESA team. The seven Airmen will then board a plane later this week headed for Port-au-Prince.

"We're going to start at Port-au-Prince since that really is the key to this whole relief operation, and that's a potential single point of failure," said Capt. Tim Barnard, APET chief. "If that airport goes down, there's a lot of aid that will not come in. We're going to make sure the Port-au-Prince airport is structurally capable to handle all the missions that are coming in."

Before the 7.0 earthquake devastated the island Jan. 12, normal air traffic was 14 flights a day. The small airport is now handling well over 100 landings a day with aircraft coming in every five minutes. "They're severely overloading the traffic, so we've got to make sure the pavement can handle the increased volume," said Capt. Barnard.

Once in Port-au-Prince, the team will coordinate with officials on the ground to determine when they can get on the airfield to do the work. Evaluations involve coring a hole in the pavement, testing the strength of the soil underneath and collecting samples. Each sample is classified according to its engineering properties and how it reacts during the tests.

"They've got (well over 100) flights there a day, so we have a very narrow window to do that, and we have to do it at several spots along the runway," said Capt. Barnard. "We'll put the data into our computer software models to come up with the structural capacity of the runway. We can then report that to the commanders on the ground and let them know how many passes they've got of a C-17 coming out of there. We'll tell them the kind of problems they may see. If they get to a certain point, they may need to stop operations and shift to another base."

After Port-au-Prince, the team plans to work in other locations around Haiti and possibly the Dominican Republic. Capt. Barnard will be joined by Master Sgt. Bruce Schulte and Staff Sgt. Harold Muniz.

A dozen civil engineers make up AFCESA's three airfield pavement evaluation teams and are on the road an average four to six months a year to meet the needs of Air Force commanders and combatant commanders around the world by evaluating the strength, performance and condition of permanent and contingency airfields to ensure that flight operations can be conducted safely.

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