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Airfield reopens, provides more pilot training

By Marilyn C. Holliday | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | Jan. 22, 2015

Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph — The day has finally arrived for instructors and students from the 560th Flying Training Squadron, to resume flying at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph's Seguin Auxiliary Airfield.

The 560th FTS is one of six squadrons that make up the 12th Flying Training Wing, which is headquartered at JBSA-Randolph.

A symbolic ribbon cutting event Jan. 20 signified the reopening of the airfield following a $12.4 million repaving and construction project that included replacing and grading the entire airfield, stabilizing existing soils, and constructing a new taxiway, parking apron and emergency access road.

"The difference in quality from the previous runway and the reconstructed runway we see today is night and day difference," Maj. Matthew Reynolds, 12th Operations Support Squadron, said. "The previous runway was so rippled that when standing at one end, you couldn't see someone standing at the other end. The new runway is crowned so that water drains. The old runway was flat and water puddled creating safety issues."

The original site was built with three runways in 1941 and required an eight month overhaul by the 12th Air Force's 820th Rapid Engineers Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron from Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. The 10,300 foot long runway was widened to 150 feet with two 10-foot wide shoulders.  Flying stopped at the airfield about three years ago.

"The work provided an indispensable training opportunity for the 820th RED HORSE Squadron and now that it's completed, will provide a necessary training airfield for the flying war fighters," Joe Domeier, 502nd Civil Engineer Squadron, said.

The project was a joint partnership between the 820th RED HORSE Squadron and the 502nd Air Base Wing. Funding and administrative support were provided by Air Education and Training command and the Air Force Civil Engineer Center.

An estimated 41,000 tons of asphalt was placed by the team.

"The challenge was for us to turn an airfield built in 1941 into one that supports modern, high performance aircraft like the T-38," Capt. Erich Kramer, 820th RED HORSE design engineer, said. "We feel that we've met that challenge and are excited to be a part of ensuring the success of the training for tomorrow's Air Force pilots."

The T-38 needs as little as 2,300 feet of runway to take off and climb from sea level to about 30,000 feet in one minute. The instructor and student sit in tandem on rocket-powered ejection seats in a pressurized, air conditioned cockpit.

"Being able to fly again at Seguin Auxiliary Airfield gives us a 30 percent increase in training opportunities due to a shared familiarity with T-38C Talon operations" Lt. Col. Joel DeBoer, 560th FTS commander, said. "It also allows us to distribute training throughout the area, reducing the volume of operations over our primary patterns."

The majority of the training aboard the T-38 at Sequin AAF is with members of the 560th Flying Training Squadron from the 12th Flying Training Wing. Training that qualifies fighter and bomber pilots as instructor pilots in the T-38C Talon is accomplished via "touch-and-go" at Seguin AAF. Squadron members execute eight syllabi to train Air Force instructor pilots, Air Force and U.S. Navy test pilot school candidates, allied nation fighter and instructor pilots and Air Force pilots identified for transition to fighter aircraft. The squadron currently flies about 8,800 hours annually in a fleet of 43 aircraft. Each year, about 130 pilots are graduated and qualified.

"The reconstructed runway increases our flight safety by distributing training around the San Antonio area, which means fewer aircraft and less congestion around Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph," Reynolds said. "This allows instructors from the 560th Flying Training Squadron to continue producing T-38 instructor pilots with the skills necessary to teach the next generation of Air Force pilots to fly, fight and win."

Members of the 12th Flying Training Wing, which is known as the "Source of America's Airpower," are responsible for four single-source aviation pipelines - combat systems officer training, pilot instructor training, remotely piloted aircraft pilot and basic sensor operator training. The wing also hosts the introduction to fighter fundamentals program and conducts electronic warfare training for the U.S. Air Force and multi-national forces.

Today, about 12,000 people work and live on JBSA-Randolph. The overall annual economic impact provided from missions at JBSA-Randolph is $1.15 billion.

City of Seguin officials, 502nd Air Base Wing and 12th FTW members will conduct a combined emergency readiness exercise in February at Seguin AAF.