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Service families are celebrating the runway reopening at Offutt Air Force Base

Posted at 6:21 PM, Sep 30, 2022

BELLEVUE, Neb. (KMTV) — Chewed up and worn out: those are just a few words to describe the runway at Offutt. Flooding in 2019 destroyed about a half-mile stretch that led to a total overhaul of the runway.

Now, all the work is finished and it's a huge milestone for families who celebrated as the runway reopened.

For the past 18 months, the 55th Wing and its mission partners have operated their flying mission from the Lincoln airport since the old runway needed a replacement.

"We used to patch the runway, like, every 10 years, that's like a $15 million job typically," Congressman Don Bacon said.

During the replacement, roughly 700 people were transported to Lincoln daily.

"You got to ride an hour there and then, after your mission, ride an hour back. That's a lot of work," Bacon said.

It was putting strain on families, spouses and their kids.

"Some families had to make the decision to move to Lincoln because they knew they had to be out there so much. That's stressful deciding how that's going to impact your family and income and everything," Marni Shaner, an Air Force wife said.

Thousands of bus trips and millions of miles traveling to Lincoln have culminated in a Welcome Home party for the 55th Wing. For the Shaners, it's a beautiful sight to see.

"The whole time we've been here the planes have been gone, so it's kind of cool to be part of them coming back for the first time," Marni said.

Out of all the airfields in the Air Force, Bacon says Offutt used to be labeled the "worst runway."

"Going from worst to best, I like that," he said.

But the best improvement the runway gives is the opportunity it gives to families.

"From the family perspective, that's the best thing, is just time saved," Air Force member Kyle Shaner said.

Sections of Offutt's old runway were 70 years old, but leaders are confident this new runway will match that longevity.

Regular flying operations start Monday.

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