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Report: All UK military flights halted at largest airbase over ‘melting’ runway

Two RAF A400M Atlas at RAF Brize Norton. (Photo by Paul Crouch, Royal Air Force released)
July 18, 2022

The United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force has reportedly halted all flights out of Royal Air Force’s largest airbase because its runways are melting in the summer heat.

On Monday, Sky News tweeted, “Flights in and out RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire have been halted because the ‘runway has melted’ in the hot weather, Sky News understands.”

Temperatures hit a high of 98°F in Oxfordshire on Monday.

RAF Brize Norton is the largest RAF base, hosting around 5,800 Service Personnel, 1,200 contractors and 300 civilian staff. The base hosts the RAF’s Strategic and Tactical Air Transport (AT) and Air-to-Air Refuelling (AAR) forces as well as lodged and reserve units.

Sky News reported last week that another RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire also had to halt flights due to the tarmac melting in the heat. The temperature was reported at the time to have reached 32°C or about 90°F.

Runways that are sitting in direct sunlight absorb heat and often times reach temperatures much higher than their surroundings. Metro reported asphalt can begin to soften at around 50°C or about 122°F. Asphalt roadways have been measured in the U.K. at over 50°C, even when the surrounding temperature was about 50°C (77°F), Metro said.

When Sky News asked about the halted flight operations had been halted at RAF Cranwell last week, an RAF spokesperson did not directly confirm reports of a melting or softening runway but said, “As a precautionary measure, the main aircraft service area at RAF Cranwell is currently unavailable for routine use. Flying training is not affected and will continue by using alternative service areas.”

The RAF official did not say which alternative areas would be used. RAF Barkston Heath, which is about a 10-minute drive from RAF Cranwell may have been one of these alternative areas for continued flight training.

RAF Cranwell is home to the No 3 Flying Training School, which provides basic flying training for fixed wing and multiengine student pilots from the RAF and the Royal Navy. RAF Cranwell also hosts the No 3 Flying Training School which oversees all university air squadrons in universities across the U.K. and the Tedder Leadership Academy.