Military feature: County road presents problem for Cannon

Courtesy photo: Cannon Air Force Base A MC-130W aircraft taxies on Cannon Air Force Base’s flight line.

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

Cannon Air Force Base officials are working to comply with a Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. Air Force requirement regarding a secondary base runway’s proximity to a county road.

Base officials discovered in August that Curry Road R violated a FAA rule that monitors potential obstructions in the path of a runway, CAFB Airfield Manager Chris Marshall said.

Base officials say vehicles traveling on the County Road R broach an FAA height restriction in the area in front of the runway. The road is approximately 1,280 feet away from runway, officials said.

Some solutions base officials are considering include asking the county to install a traffic light along the road or arranging sheriff’s deputies to stop traffic when aircraft are landing, according to Lt. Col. Toby Corey, 27th Special Operations Support Squadron commander. But he said there is no guarantee a vehicle would stop at the light and coordinating with sheriff’s deputies might not be practical.

County Manager Lance Pyle said he has not heard from base officials about traffic issues regarding Curry Road R. He said the County Commission must approve any changes to the road.

Base officials have also addressed concerns that passing traffic on County Road R could affect electronic equipment used to guide aircraft using the secondary runway during inclement weather. He said vehicles could interfere with a radar-like signal used by pilots to align the aircraft to the runway on landings.

The base has adjusted the minimum airspace and visibility requirements for landings, according to Corey.

Under the new parameters, there must be at least an 800-foot cloud ceiling and at least two-mile visibility on the ground to land on the runway, Corey said.

Corey said the new requirements would allow pilots time to adjust if the signals were interrupted.

The standard requirements were a 200-foot cloud ceiling and three-fourths of a mile visibility.

A MC-130W aircraft was forced to abort a landing attempt in February because it could not meet the landing requirements, according to Corey.

Corey said the aircraft was redirected to an Albuquerque airport.

Aircraft are using a secondary runway because the main runway has been closed for renovation.

The main runway should be available by next month, Marshall said.

There are currently nine aircraft — five MC-130Ws and four PC-12s aircraft – at the base, according to Corey.

Marshall said after the main runway is reopened the secondary runway will undergo renovations.

The base airfield manager said he expects base officials to come up with a permanent solution to the vehicle obstruction problem when it reopens in December.