Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas --
Since the Feb. 22, 2016 hail storm that hit Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, and its surrounding community, most debris has been cleaned, broken windows have been covered and damages are continuing to be assessed for repair.
While things haven’t completely returned to normal for everyone, flying has resumed and base agencies are open for ‘normal operations’.
“We are bouncing back from a major storm that has impacted the entire community,” said Col. Thomas Shank, 47th Flying Training Wing commander. “There’s been a lot of teamwork and cooperation among Team XLers and the Del Rio community. I’m extremely pleased with the progress we’ve made and continue to make.”
Assessment teams calculated initial damage estimates to infrastructure of $6.6 million, with an additional $1 million to operational equipment. Damages ranged from broken windows and debris-covered roads to water-damaged computers and beaten heating, ventilation and air conditioning subsystems.
“Any time our installation suffers through a natural disaster, the 47th Civil Engineer Squadron deploys multiple damage assessment teams to identify airfield and base facility damage,” said 1st Lt. Kathleen Deiters, 47th CES Operations Flight Chief. “Our main concern is to ensure all facilities are clear of any major safety hazards before personnel return and determine the scope and mission impact of all damages.”
Laughlin facilities and housing units were without power for up to 12 hours and some homes were deemed un-livable, causing residents to be transferred to alternate on-base lodging.
Infrastructure was not the only piece of the base that suffered from the hail storm; Laughlin's aircraft were also hit.
Of the three aircraft fleets at Laughlin, the T-1 Jayhawks were hit hardest. Eighty-two percent of the T-1 fleet was unsheltered, damaged and grounded, resulting in an 80 percent loss of T-1 pilot training production capability. Fortunately, the T-38 Talons only sustained manageable damage, and the T-6A Texan II fleet came out nearly unscathed.
The T-6 and T-38 training pipelines have been minimally impacted, and the extent of the impact on the T-1 training pipeline is still being assessed. The wing is working with the T-1 Program Office and other Air Force units to reach full mission capability as quickly as possible, but our priority is to ensure safety remains in the forefront of all operations.
While the cost and time for repair is still under review, initial estimates could exceed the $758,000 (over $1 million in 2016 dollars) and two month-recovery time incurred in the 2002 hailstorm. That storm took out more than 82 percent of the T-37 aircraft - the aircraft that preceded the T-6A Texan II that is used in phase two of pilot training now.
With the help of personnel and aircraft assets from other Air Education and Training Command wings, Laughlin is committed to meeting its mission requirements of training the world’s best pilots, deploying mission-ready Airmen and developing professional, disciplined, bold leaders.