Lexington County will no longer hear the regular roar of fighter jets streaking overhead.
The Columbia Metropolitan Airport has announced that the S.C. Air National Guard has ended the temporary relocation of F-16 operations from McEntire Joint National Guard base that started in May 2022.
The guard’s 169th Fighter Wing moved to the West Columbia airport while its regular home in Hopkins underwent renovations. About 25 F-16s and about 200 pilots and support staff were relocated while the wing’s regular runway was resurfaced.
“This was a complex partnership to pull off, that involved a lot of moving parts, and I’m incredibly proud to say that it was successful because of the skilled teams from both organizations being willing to support the effort and see it through until the end,” Mike Gula, Executive Director of the Columbia Metropolitan Airport, is quoted in a release.
The relocation, intended to last through October 2022, ended up going nearly five months longer than that. Back when the stay was extended past October, Lt. Col. Jim St. Clair, who handles public affairs for the fighter wing, told the Chronicle that unexpected hurdles in resurfacing the F-16 runway in Hopkins forced the change of plans.
“A lot of the concrete in the main runway dates back to before World War II, the exact thickness of some of the concrete was not known despite all the preliminary work which was done including drilling core samples," he said in a statement.
"In some areas the concrete removed was up to twice as thick as anticipated. Therefore, extra time was required to remove the additional concrete after demolition.”
The airport notes that daily flights continued as normal during the wing’s temporary operations, and there was no impact to commercial aviation.
“We are so thankful for the great partnership we’ve experienced this past year with our friends at Columbia Metropolitan Airport,” U.S. Air Force Col. Quaid Quadri, commander of the 169th Fighter Wing, is quoted. “The support we’ve received from CAE, as well as all our community partners, is second to none and we couldn’t do what we do without them. The South Carolina Air National Guard is grateful for everyone’s support.”