After years of daily aircraft activity every runway eventually needs
re-surfacing and right now it’s the turn of RAF Brize Norton. When
the decision was made to re-surface a plan was needed which would
allow the RAF’s aircraft operations to continue while the work was
being done. After investigating how this could be done there were
two options to choose from.
first was for the RAF to stay at Brize Norton but only operate their
aircraft for 12 hours a day and then allow the construction workers
to work for 12 hours every night. Although this plan removed the
need for a second base it would have significantly restricted
aircraft operations, have taken two to three times as long to finish
as a complete closure will and have cost significantly more to do.
The second and preferred option was to move the whole Brize Norton
operation to another base for the duration of the construction work,
the trouble was finding somewhere with enough parking space for 25
large aircraft that also had the fuel, passenger and freight
facilities on site.
In the end a compromise involving RAF Fairford was made, the
aircraft and their maintenance operations would move to RAF Fairford
while the passenger and freight processing would remain at their
traditional terminals at nearby RAF Brize Norton.
The move to RAF Fairford is expected to last four months and there
are significant incentives to encourage the construction companies
to finish the work on time. RAF Fairford will have an Initial
Operating Capability (IOC) from September 10th that will
allow the base to begin receiving Brize Norton’s aircraft as their
finish their missions however none are expected to start arriving
until the 14th. By the 15th aircraft will be
able to both launch and recover from missions at Fairford and on the
19th RAF Brize Norton’s runway officially closes.
Although Brize Norton has a large fleet of aircraft there are always
some deployed around the world supporting British operations. Due
to these deployments it’s expected that the RAF will typically have
8 Tri-stars, 15 VC-10s and up to 4 C-17s of theirs at Fairford at
anyone time. Additionally 2 to 4 charter aircraft a week are
expected, usually 747s, however being modern commercial aircraft
they have very quiet engines.
aircraft that normally visit Brize Norton, such as other RAF
aircraft or those carrying foreign VIPs, will not be coming to
Fairford. Instead they will be using other RAF stations such as
Waddington, Lyneham and Northolt. To help reduce the number of
aircraft using Fairford even more the Brize Norton flying club are
moving to RAF Benson for the duration of the runway work.
Regardless of how soon the runway work is completed there are no
plans to return the aircraft to Brize Norton before Christmas.
Although operational commitments will still need to be met Christmas
Day and Boxing Day are due to be no flying days at RAF Fairford.
Assuming the runway work finishes on time the aircraft will start to
return to Brize Norton on Jan 2nd.
There are on average 17 aircraft movements a day at Brize Norton
with 2 to 5 of these during “quiet” hours. The majority of quiet
hours flying involves the C-17 which being a modern aircraft is
significantly quieter than the others. Additional non-based
aircraft will only come to Fairford if they are in direct support of
Brize Norton’s operational mission, the base has a 24/7 role
supporting operations around the world, notably Afghanistan, Iraq
and Hurricane Katrina recently, and operations must go on.
help even more to keep aircraft noise to a minimum there will be no
practice diversions, training work or touch and goes allowed at
Fairford wherever possible by either the based or any passing
aircraft. Instead the aircraft will be sent to other RAF airfields
to perform their training flights before returning home to
Fairford. It’s these training flights which typically make up the
majority of Brize Norton’s aircraft movements today.
Around 350 ground crew per shift keep Brize Norton’s mission running
and will always been working at Fairford operating on a continuous
24/7 pattern. In addition to the RAF ground crews who will be
working at Fairford the RAF will also be sending their own aircraft
specific ground equipment. This will primarily consist of aircraft
loading equipment, ground power carts and air stairs. The USAF has
provided a lot of advice and guidance to the RAF as Fairford is a
considerably different style of airfield for the RAF to work out of.
Maintenance of the aircraft always has to be done, and will be
noisy, but will have the same time restrictions placed on it as have
always existed at RAF Brize Norton. Quiet hours for engine runs
will be 8pm to 7am seven days a week with an additional 8.30 to
12:00 quiet period on Sunday mornings. Exceptional operational
requirements may require ground runs outside of these hours but like
back at Brize Norton each of these will require written sign off by
OC Ops first.
Considerable planning work has been done in the area of traffic to
ensure that the extra vehicles in the Fairford area that the
operation will create use the best routes available and cause the
least disruption to local residents.
The passengers and freight that will be flown out of Fairford on the
RAF’s transport aircraft will still be delivered from all over the
country to RAF Brize Norton, they will not be coming directly to
Fairford. This will ensure that the large numbers of vehicles that
drive to Brize Norton everyday are kept away from Fairford’s quiet
country roads and only a smaller number of pre-planned and
controlled journeys are made to Fairford.
Once at Brize Norton the passengers and freight will be “processed”,
re-loaded on to more space efficient vehicles and then driven to
Fairford. The designated routes the ground crew and passenger
coaches will use will improve once the Whelford bridge re-opens in
late September. The large number welcoming families and hire cars
associated with Brize Norton’s passengers will have no need to come
to Fairford so will not affect local traffic levels.
When the freight is processed at Brize Norton it will be packed on
to the space efficient pallets used by the aircraft before being
driven by lorry to Fairford on a Highways Agency provided route.
The route is designed to keep the lorries away from as many villages
and towns as possible and will see them use the A40, A429 and A417
before driving to Fairford from Cricklade. There will be extra
gates opened on the base that will keep the lorries away from as
many local villages as possible.
Finally to ensure that local traffic flows as close to normal as
possible the base’s Ministry of Defence Police will be patrolling
the perimeter roads as they normally do ensuring anyone parked
nearby is not causing problems. They are expecting more
visitors to the base because of the visiting aircraft but will not
let them cause a nuisance to local residents.
on this page are Crown Copyright and information for this article came from the
community relations officers of RAF Brize Norton.