Presidential Plane Damages Runway

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We've grown used to a presidential visit closing aviation facilities but the effect is usually temporary. Las Cruces (New Mexico) International Airport closed one of its three runways indefinitely after George W. Bush's entourage left an indelible mark. A C-17 accompanying Air Force One created ruts more than 2,500 feet long when it backed up to get in position for takeoff there last Thursday. Damage is estimated at $1 million. (Oops.) Airport Manager Theresa Cook told AVweb that the president's travel team was warned that the asphalt runway (in the middle of a Southwest summer day) might not handle the weight of the planes in the entourage. Cook said the C-32-A (a military version of the Boeing 757) carrying President Bush landed and took off without any problems. It wasn't until the accompanying C-17 backed up for almost half the length of the affected runway that the damage occurred. Cook said she didn't know why the cargo plane backed up, using its thrust reversers, instead of taxiing conventionally. Initial reports said it was the 757 that caused the damage but that was an error, said Cook. She said the ruts are about two inches deep but the displaced asphalt also created a bump, so the total depth might approach four inches. The runway was closed immediately. The military is expected to cover the cost of repairing the damage but it's not known when the repairs will be made.