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Air Force looking into claims of C-17 damaging Stillwater Airport runway

A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III in flight. (New Jersey National Guard photo by Mark C. Olsen)

The USAF’s Air Mobility Command has told the News Press it is looking into the situation involving a C-17 aircraft transporting Air Force Academy’s women’s basketball team to Stillwater Regional Airport.

SWO claimed the aircraft was not authorized to land Sunday at the airport and that because it was too heavy, damaged the runway and taxiway.

“We are aware of the C-17 landing at SWO and we’re looking into the situation but do not have any details to provide at this time,” AMC Public Relations wrote to the News Press. “We will follow up when more information becomes available.”

The City of Stillwater said the airport is safe and operational after patching the damaged surface but will need engineers to see if there is significant damage to the subsurface.

“Engineers are in the process of evaluating the next step for assessing the full extent of damage to the runway,” City of Stillwater Director of Communications told the News Press. “The initial report was based on surface damage caused by the extreme jet blast needed for a plane the size of a C-17 to perform a short-field takeoff. This included damage to airfield signage and the removal of several areas where concrete and/or pavement epoxy were used to repair the runway. Although much of the surface damage was cosmetic, the primary concern is the potential damage to the structural integrity of the runway.”

SWO reported the C-17 would have exceeded the 310,000-pound maximum weight capacity for the SWO runway. The City of Stillwater said in Wednesday’s release that the flight was requested in October and denied at that time.

“The airport maintains published runway data available to all pilots that clearly requires prior approval for charters and lists the maximum allowable weight for each runway,” the City release says. “At this time, it is unknown why the pilot decided to land at SWO.

According to the Associated Press, Air Force officials with the 911th Airlift Wing claim the flight was coordinated with SWO five days before the landing.

“Internal Air Force reports indicate that the aircraft was within weight limits of triple-tandem landing gear and that the flight was coordinated with airport officials prior to landing,” Marjorie Schurr, chief of public affairs for the Air Force’s 911th Airlift Wing wrote to the Associated Press.

The City of Stillwater told the News Press it stands by its original statement that the flight was unauthorized.

The weight limit listed by SWO said it was for dual-tandem aircraft and makes no mention of triple-tandem aircraft.

Media relations from the Air Force Academy told the News Press military aircraft is used for intercollegiate sports teams’ away games to save taxpayer funds and support required military airlift training.

“When military airlift is unpractical or unavailable, commercial airline tickets are purchased,” Dean Miller, Air Force Academy Chief of Media Operations told the News Press. “When military airlift is unpractical or unavailable, commercial airline tickets are purchased.”

Paul Priegel, director of the Stillwater Regional Airport, said they would be in communications with the Air Force and has asked the Federal Aviation Administration to open an investigation.

SWO has solicited help from its representatives in Congress.

“Stillwater Regional Airport has briefed the offices of Sen. James Lankford, Sen. Jim Inhofe, the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission and the Federal Aviation Administration,” Jones told the News Press.


(c) 2022 the Stillwater NewsPress

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