SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — The 185th Air Refueling Wing is temporarily flying and maintaining the unit’s tankers at an air base in Kansas while the main runway at Sioux Gateway Airport undergoes rehabilitation.
The roughly $8.9 million runway project, which is fully funded with a federal grant through the Federal Aviation Administration, began the last week in April. The runway isn’t expected to reopen until mid-October. In the meantime, Assistant City Manager Mike Collett said commercial flights are using the city-owned airport’s secondary runway.
“It’s a rehabilitation of the surface that needs it, new shoulders and new lighting,” Collett said of the project. “It’s pretty straight forward as far as what it is. It’s just the length of time and the coordinating effort with the Air National Guard, which we’re very glad they’re supportive of helping us maintain the airfield.”
The 185th’s Lt. Col. Brandon East told the Sioux City Journal that the city delayed the project until four of the refueling tankers had departed for a U.S. Central Command deployment.
“We had to load them up with packs and cargo, so they put off their project until the end of April for us to be able to get those four aircrafts out without having to launch them from a different location, which we really appreciated,” he said.
Then, East said the remaining four aircrafts went to Forbes Field Air National Guard Base in Topeka, Kansas, where the 190th Air Refueling Wing is stationed. He said all eight aircrafts were located there at one time.
“We operated with four down there and, then, when the deployers returned the end of June, they returned to the Air National Guard base in Lincoln, Nebraska,” he said. “That’s where we received them in at. But, then, those four were relocated to Kansas, so all eight were down at Kansas there at one time.”
East said members of the 185th have been traveling in government vehicles to Topeka on a weekly basis to maintain the aircrafts and conduct flying operations. He said being able to move just comes along with the job, and that a lot of the airmen look for opportunities like this to be able to do “real world work” at a different location.
“It’s just been one-week, five-day tours for the most part of our folks going down to Kansas in small groups,” he said. “Most of them don’t enjoy the four-hour drive, but, as far as their work goes, there are many that are looking forward to doing that type of a duty.”