Nepal, USAF combine efforts to conduct critical runway repairs
By Staff Sgt. Melissa White, JTF-505 Public Affairs
/ Published May 10, 2015
KATHMANDU, Nepal -- Airmen and Nepalese officials worked together to repair the runway at the Tribhuvan International Airport here May 9 through 10.
Airmen with the 36th Contingency Response Group attached to Joint Task Force-505 and members of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal teamed up to conduct necessary repairs to the airfield after it sustained damage following a magnitude 7.8 earthquake that struck the nation April 25. Subsequent heavy airlift with large amounts of relief supplies significantly increased aircraft traffic through the airfield, further straining the runway.
"The repairs will allow the continued throughput of humanitarian aid and relief supplies by ultimately preserving the life of the single international airport in Nepal," said Capt. Ryan White, 36th CRG airfield operations. "This airfield is Nepal's lifeline for relief supplies and for international travel, so these repairs will help the airfield keep pace with the aid coming in so the Government of Nepal can keep getting assistance to the people who need it."
The two nations conducted joint assessments for three nights prior to the repairs by evaluating 20 critical areas along the entire 9,500-foot runway. They conducted visual assessments by evaluating for cracks, potholes or ruts to ensure damage would not hinder operations or impact aircraft. They also accomplished a runway bearing capacity investigation to determine its strength by drilling in the pavement and testing the soil up to 4 feet below the surface.
The team's findings determined two critical areas in need of repairs, which were located in the landing zones of the runway.
During the dark of the nights when operations ceased at the airport, four Airmen joined the six-man Nepalese team to conduct the repairs.
With their combined efforts, they repaired 250 square feet of the runway the first night and an area of eight square feet the following night.
The Nepalese team and Airmen repaired the compromised locations by first removing the damaged surface, cleaning out debris, and then filling the area with an asphalt mixture.
The repair efforts also proved to be an opportunity for the two nations to exchange and compare different repair techniques. For the first repair, the teams used the Nepalese technique for repair by using a cold mix asphalt and a sand seal, which is a mixture containing sand and tar. The Airmen then worked with the Nepalese to accomplish the repair by applying the method they typically use, which is a prepared, harder cold mix asphalt able to withstand more impact weight without additional repairs or applications.
"It was a great opportunity to share our runway repair operations with our partners and friends in this region," White said. "Together, we hope to come up with a viable option to repair the runway to sustain operations in Kathmandu."
Within one to three hours of completing the repairs, the runway was operational again - just in time for the airport to open up and receive morning flights and thousands of pounds of relief supplies.
"These expedient repairs are critical at this point because it doesn't require a complete shutdown of the runway," said Capt. Clark Morgan, 36th Mobility Readiness Squadron Contingency Engineer Flight commander. "If the runway closes, then aid stops, and we want to help keep the missions moving to keep receiving humanitarian assistance relief supplies so the Government of Nepal can keep focusing on getting the aid to the people who need it while resting assured that the runway will stay open and operational."
The Nepalese officials and Airmen plan to continue doing daily visual assessments to ensure the integrity of the runway remains intact and to identify any additional repairs if necessary.
The 36th CRG Airmen arrived in Nepal from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, May 5, and attached to JTF 505 to assist the Government of Nepal, Nepalese Army, and the U.S. Agency for International Development with airfield operations and processing relief supplies.