Stillwater Regional Airport runway damaged due to 'unauthorized military aircraft landing'

STILLWATER, Okla. (KFOR) — The City of Stillwater says its regional airport sustained significant airfield damage Sunday, Dec. 13, due to an unauthorized military aircraft landing.

City officials say a U.S. Air Force C17 Globe Master aircraft landed around noon on Sunday, carrying the U.S. Air Force Women’s Basketball Team to their game against Oklahoma State University.

C17. Image courtesy City of Stillwater.

“Charter flights are required to receive permission prior to using the airport to ensure safety equipment, such as the Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) services, are in place as well as to make sure the airport can accommodate all needs,” said the city. “In this case, this prior approval was neither requested nor granted by airport administration.”

Stillwater Regional Airport’s published runway maximum weight capacity is 310,000 pounds for dual tandem aircraft and the C-17 that landed is approximately 400,000 pounds (45 tons over weight limit), according to city officials.

City officials say airport staff have temporarily patched surface damage to the runway and taxiways, so the airfield remains safe and operational.

Airport runway damage

However, because of the extreme excess weight and the pavement consisting of multiple levels, engineers are determining the best method for assessing damage to the structural integrity of the airfield.

The engineers say potential damage can be feet beneath the surface and not be evident at the surface for years. Tools like ground-penetrating radar may need to be deployed to gain a better understanding of what lies beneath the surface.

“In October, the U.S. Air Force Baseball Team requested to land at the airport with the same aircraft type and was denied due to weight limits. The airport maintains published runway data available to all pilots that clearly requires prior approval for charters and lists the maximum allowable weight for each runway,” said the city. “At this time, it is unknown why the pilot decided to land at SWO.”

Officials say Stillwater Regional Airport Director Paul Priegel and City Administration are talking with U.S. Air Force and have also requested the Federal Aviation Administration open an investigation into this incident.

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