TAMPA (FOX 13) - In the sky, the KC-135 aerial refueling tankers based at MacDill Air Force Base have smooth sailing, but when they land, things can get a little rough. FOX 13 News got an exclusive, up-close look at the runway where parts of the pavement is crumbling.
There are chunks and ruts. Workers at the base have to sweep it every day to keep it safe for take-offs and landings. They've decided to shut down the 13-year-old runway this fall for an $8-million overhaul.
"We're going to mill and overlay the entire length of the runway," explained Robert Moore, a civil engineer at MacDill. "We're going to mill it 4 inches deep and then re-pave the entire runway."
The runway is more than 11,000 feet long.
Air traffic will continue, though, in spite of MacDill's only runway being shut down for two months during construction. Tampa International Airport will begin to make room for that traffic mid-October, when the tankers will move in beside the airliners.
"They will use the same runways, they will use the same FAA ground and tower frequencies," said airport spokesperson Christine Osborn.
The tankers will be parked in the same area as the private jets at TIA. They expect at least four tankers and two Gulfstream jets often used by the Air Force to transport generals and dignitaries in and out of Central Command and Special Operations Command based at MacDill.
With nearly 500 take-offs and landings every day by airliners at TIA, officials say the dozen or so flights by the military aircraft won't make a big difference or overtax the airport, which is not charging the Air Force for the planes to be there.
The Air Force crews say they'll be ready.
"With Tampa being adjacent to us, it will be a pretty seamless transition," says Capt. Steven Parent, who helps coordinate air traffic at MacDill.
"They won't be using any of our gates or our airside facilities," added Osborn, "so passengers won't see any disruptions."
The Air Force planes are scheduled to move to TIA on October 17. If all goes as planned, the tankers will be home at MacDill by Christmas.