Occasional training flights by four-engine military jets over Johnstown’s airport are not part of continuing negotiations to establish assault landing zone training here, officials say.
The C-17 Globemaster transport jets from the 167th Airlift Wing of the West Virginia Air National Guard and Pittsburgh-based 911th Airlift Wing of the Air Force Reserve have used the Richland Township airfield to practice approaches as recently as Thursday.
Meanwhile, the military process continues to move slowly toward establishing an assault landing training opportunity on the John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport’s shorter, cross-wind Runway 5/23, airport Manager Thomas Keyes said Friday.
“Runway 5/23 meets their training specifications,” Keyes said. “That’s the runway they would like to use.”
The 167th paid for installing new couplings and tethers for 12 runway-marking signs required to withstand the 300-mph jet blast from the C-17, Keyes said.
Recently, members of the West Virginia Guard unit developed a prototype for a landing zone marker, which was approved by the military.
“These are visual landing zone marker panels they would have to have installed alongside Runway 5/23 for them to conduct their training,” Keyes said, explaining that pilots must be able to land the jet and bring it to a stop within a designated distance to meet the assault landing qualification.
But before the panels can be installed, Federal Aviation Administration construction requirements would have to be met, beginning with an environmental assessment that would include a review of noise impacts, Keyes said.
When discussions of the assault landing training began in 2016, neighbors in the Skyview Estates development presented concerns about the noise during a meeting of the Johns-town-Cambria County Airport Authority.
Leaders pointed out that the homes were under the approach to the airport’s longer landing strip, Runway 15/33. Assault landings are proposed for Runway 5/23, which stretches from the hill above Von’s United Beverage off Galleria Drive Extension to an area near near the Army National Guard facility on Airport Road.
Aircraft approach that runway over the Walters Avenue exit for Route 56 Johnstown Expressway or over the area near Solomon Run Road’s intersection with Engbert Road.
“The airport authority is very mindful of the potential impact to the community,” Keyes said.
“We want to minimize that impact.”
Leaders of the 167th have presented a plan where aircraft would train a maximum of two weekdays a week, between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., he said, adding that the 911th has not developed a plan, but would be interested in a similar schedule.
“The 167th has been spearheading this,” Keyes said. “The 911th more recently expressed an interest. They heard about the 167th effort and their training requirements are similar.”
Keyes stressed the process is still in its early stages and several more approvals must be obtained before training can begin.
Airport Authority Chairman James Loncella noted the airport has not paid for any upgrades and that the new sign reinforcements do not guarantee the assault landing program will come to fruition.
“We are very early in the process,” Loncella said. “The things we have done, none of them have committed us to do it, and none of them have cost us anything.”