C-32, C-17 carrying President Bush, equipment for
visit damaged runways
Back in September, we reported a story that a presidential C-32
aircraft (military version of the Boeing 757) landed at Las Cruces
airport in New Mexico, even though the Bush Administration had been
clearly told that none of the airport's runways could handle the
weight of the aircraft.
It now appears that another aircraft in the mission may have
caused more damages to the runway, and the cost of the repair has
already been estimated at $2 million. The Bush reelection campaign
staff, which was responsible for the travel arrangements in the
first place, refuses to take responsibility for the damage because
the aircraft belong the US Air Force, and the Air Force claims that
the city gave them permission to land. It has yet to be
established, though, why the pilots chose to land their aircraft on
a runway that could not handle their weight, putting in danger the
aircraft, the equipment it was carrying and the lives of the
Runway 22 at Las Cruces, one of three, and the longest one, is
now unusable, due to deep ruts and cuts made by the USAF aircraft,
according to city facilities director Brian Denmark. The repair
estimates originally came to $1 million, but estimates done by
engineering firms in Albuquerque and Las Cruces exceed that by at
least a factor of two.
According to Las Cruces Airport Manager Theresa Cook, the two
engineering companies estimate the cost of repairing and
resurfacing the runway at between $1.7 and $2.1 million.
Both the C-32 and another C-17 cargo aircraft landed at the
airport. The C-32 caused the ruts on the runway, marked by skid
marks that ended some 2,500 down the runway. The C-17 caused
further damage when it slowly taxied backwards on a runway that not
only could not handle the weight, but was also softened by the hot
afternoon sun. There were in fact four aircraft that landed that
way, two C-32's and two C-17's, but it is not known if the other
aircraft also caused damage at the airport.
Cook told the Associated Press that her office had clearly
informed the Air Force, as well as President Bush's travel team,
the details of the runway and warned them that the aircraft planned
to arrive were too heavy. However, the city could not prohibit the
pilots of the aircraft from landing.