The South Carolina Air National Guard and the Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE) announced a training partnership on Monday that will allow the temporary relocation of F16 fighter jets. The fleet will be housed at an airport hangar for six months while the runway at McEntire Joint National Guard Base is being renovated, repaved, and repaired.
Aviation enthusiasts will have an opportunity to watch takeoff formations and landings 8 to 10 times during the mornings and afternoons. Night flying will also be executed but mitigated and should not be disruptive.
According to Mike Gula, executive director of Columbia Metropolitan Airport, details are being finalized for a temporary observation area that allows the public to watch the takeoffs and landings throughout the day safely. Gula said parking for the observation area would be in the regular parking spot, and the first 30 mins will be free in the surface lot. He strongly discourages parking on Platt Springs Road and assures that the missions will not impact the daily operation of the flights at the airport.
Every planning approach was taken to ensure a minimal negative impact on the community. Environmental surveys were done, and flight profiles were adjusted to minimize the noise footprint and ensure safe operations were executed at the airport without compromising readiness and the training opportunities for the pilots and maintainers.
Governor Henry McMaster spoke during the announcement and stated that South Carolina is always making history. He referenced that during World War II, Gen. Doolittle’s troops trained at the now CAE location for a number of weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
McMaster said that the training partnership would continue to keep South Carolina strong.
“This is just one more example of how quickly and easily we in South Carolina communicate, collaborate, cooperate and work together to get things done. And I’m always reminded that this is a military state,” said McMaster. “So, this today, this announcement today this cooperation to help keep our military strong, to keep our national security strong, is another example of the great road that South Carolina plays, and I congratulate all involved.”
The National Guard’s daily flying operations will continue during the temporary relocation. An estimate of 200 to 250 airmen will be seen regularly, and on drill weekend, there will be an increase of 300 airmen daily. A total of 20 sorties will be conducted daily with airmen flying to the same airspaces to perform the same training they do day in and day out.
Major General Van McCarty, Adjutant General for South Carolina Air National Guard and head of the South Carolina Military Department, said the partnership with CAE is helping to set the stage for the future.
“This is another example of how the movement and the private sector can work together for something that’s favorable not only for the National Guard but also to the taxpayers,” said General Van McCarty. “The repair, restoration, and extension to the runway at McIntyre will set the stage for the next 15 years for flight operation out there either in the current F16’s or hopefully F35’s or next future generation fighter. It will also allow more improvements to be made to the facility. It also allows the National Guard, a team member in the defense of this great nation, to be prepared at all times to answer the call. The temporary location will not have any impact on how the National Guard conducts normal day-to-day operations.”
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