NAS Jax runway sinkhole repairs complete

Larger planes were re-routed to Cecil Airport

By Scott Johnson - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - News4Jax learned Thursday that repairs have been completed to a huge sinkhole under the runway at Naval Air Station Jacksonville and flight operations should resume Friday.

The sinkhole caused some concern for local pilots as a number of planes had to be re-routed to other airports in the area.

The main runway at NAS Jax could still handle some planes, but heavier planes couldn't land there until the runway was fixed. Those planes were touching down at Cecil Airport.

Cecil Airport is just miles away with a huge amount of runway space, but one concern was that smaller planes are constantly flying out of Herlong Airport in between the two larger airports.

"You have to be very careful," said pilot Bill Sapuch. "Jets are always in the way, and you're going to be in the jets. Sometimes even the paratroopers, they fly down here. They fly around, and you've got to be very careful. You've got to fly around them."

Sapuch said the added air traffic can be tough for some more novice pilots.

"We have to be very careful, because we've got to make way for them, and they're faster than we are," Sapuch said. "We have to be extra careful."

And because of the added air traffic, Herlong Airport sent out this email to pilots saying, "you can expect to see increased traffic over our airfield and a much different operational situation at Cecil, if you decide to fly there."

But this was really a test run for air traffic in the area. In 2015 NAS Jax will begin resurfacing its runways, and Rusty Chandler, the head man at Cecil Airport, told News4Jax all flights will be re-routed there, so he said the extra traffic to Cecil now is no problem.

"The airport is capable of handling a lot more aircraft than it does currently," Chandler said. "We accommodate the military on a day-to-day basis anyways. You'll see more aircraft coming and going, (but) we have the capacity. We have the room."

Sixteen regular flights into and out of NAS Jax were diverted to Cecil Airport, and those included the biggest planes NAS Jax has.

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