COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
Hundreds of aircraft take off and land on Columbus Air Force Base weekly, which makes the foundation on which these aircraft park and taxi very important.
In late October, Gary Wright, 14th Flying Training Wing Airfield Manager, was walking along the T-1A Jayhawks parking/taxiway here and found a hole that looked suspicious.
“I saw it and thought it could turn into a problem so we stuck a rod in it and it just kept going,” Wright said.
The void under a T-1 parking site was found and the 14th Civil Engineer Squadron, 14th Operations Support Squadron and those who were directly affected were notified immediately.
“Coincidentally we had the [Airfield and Pavement Evaluation] Team, scheduled to perform a routine check on the airfield and runways,” Wright said. “So we are using their knowledge and equipment to help us pinpoint the issue and possibly help resolve it.”
The hole was determined to be roughly 50 feet in diameter and almost 4 feet deep, and was a result of water flowing underneath the concrete for many years, eroding the dirt below.
“Gary showed us there’s an issue our first day here,” said Capt. John Kulikowski, Air Force Civil Engineer Center APE Team Branch Chief, from Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. “We made a few holes around the original space and saw a large void when we stuck our heads in.”
They helped determine the issue at hand, determining it was most likely a piping issue.
Kulikowski said when larger voids appear, like in this case, a broken pipe is often one of the main causes behind it.
“(Rain water) goes right into the joints underneath the pavement structure, that's what makes it weaker and degrades the soil layers beneath,” he said.
He continued to say that when there’s a cracked pipe, the water will eventually push out the finer materials and begin creating a void.
Kulikowski and his team identified the issue while simultaneously completing their original mission, taking samples from the airfield and judging the integrity and lifespan the concrete has.
“We work long days and lots of hours,” Kulikowski said. “Weekends are actually our bread and butter days because operations are usually slower. It’s a fantastic job and as far as a job goes, it is the perfect mix of being in the field and being in the office.”
Because of the combined work of Wright, the APE Team and the 14th CES, the hole has been evaluated and is seeing the maintenance necessary to continue the T-1 training mission.