JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA —
Last week's historic winter storm created hazardous conditions, power outages, and icy roads all across the Lowcountry. In coordination with the Charleston County Aviation Authority, Joint Base Charleston's focus was on the safety of our local community, respective employees, and travelers to and from Charleston. While these efforts delayed plans for many individuals using the airport, our goal was to not endanger any airline, airport employee, or passengers by exposing them to precarious conditions.
From a strategic perspective, the Air Force remained postured to fulfill our rapid global mobility mission during the storm. Readiness was never threatened as Joint Base Charleston Airmen prepositioned some of our C-17A Globemaster III aircraft to alternate locations prior to the storm and actively operated a portion of the Joint Base Charleston fleet from remote locations during the storm.
We ask the community to understand that runways cannot be salted like normal roads. Normal road salt causes damage and corrosion on runway instrumentation systems as well as the aircraft. Additionally, the use of sand while acceptable on local highways, may damage aircraft engines if ingested.
Unlike bases that receive regular snowfall, Joint Base Charleston is not equipped with its own snow removal equipment. Procuring and maintaining millions of dollars of supplies and specialized equipment for snow and ice removal is neither fiscally practical nor is it responsible. Despite this limitation, Joint Base Charleston contracted three plows and utilized some of our road construction equipment to remove a majority of the snow from one of the two runways on Friday. The residual moisture on the runway, coupled with freezing temperatures, furthermore prolonged slippery conditions. Even after opening the first runway, the carriers delayed operations until the following day due to safety concerns of remaining ice patches. In the meantime, we continued to work with the Aviation Authority and Boeing to clear the snow and ice from the other runway and the taxiways. All this work allowed us to open the second runway on Sunday.
Though delays lasted longer than expected or desired, we are committed to being better prepared for future ice and snow storms. The plan executed after the storm took some time to complete and included a great deal of teamwork between the base, the Aviation Authority, and Boeing to utilize available equipment, material, and manpower. We are actively looking at lessons learned to build a better plan to assist us in clearing the ice and snow from the runways in the future. Continued collaboration between Joint Base Charleston, the Aviation Authority, and Boeing will provide better response procedures to future weather incidents. As always, we thank the Charleston community for their support, patience, and understanding following this historic winter storm.
Colonel Jeff Nelson, United States Air Force Commander, 628th Air Base Wing and Joint Base Charleston
Colonel Jimmy Canlas, United States Air Force Commander, 437th Airlift Wing
Mr. Paul Campbell
CEO, Charleston Aviation Authority