HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — Though the Hill Air Force Base runway was closed for several weeks due to a major runway reconstruction project, that doesn’t mean that all flying operations were cancelled.
With the F-35A Lightning II’s from the active duty 388th and Reserve 419th Fighter Wings being deployed during this same time, the Ogden Air Logistics Complex still needed to get aircraft in and out of the base on an almost daily basis.
For this to happen, pilots from the 514th Flight Test Squadron needed to use the taxiway that runs parallel to the runway.
“In normal training you don’t train for landing on such a narrow taxiway,” said F-22 Raptor test pilot Maj. Philip Johnson. “We did a certification program in the squadron, which consisted of ground training and one flight where we landed on the taxiway before we could accomplish any functional check flights in any non-airworthy aircraft.”
At more than two miles long, the taxiway is plenty long enough, it’s just quite narrow in most areas and isn’t as smooth a surface as a runway is designed to be.
Using the taxiway also meant landing and taking off much closer to buildings that are located just to the west side of the taxiway, which caused crosswinds to affect the aircraft in a much different way.
With operating hours ranging from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., summer brought fair weather allowing the pilots to operate in and out of the base without the use of instrument landing aides.
“We were all surprised how easy is was to become comfortable to land and takeoff from the taxiway,” Johnson said.
The base runway reopened July 29. Some construction will continue on the south ramp in the coming weeks.