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North Airfield

North Auxiliary Airfield offers a place for pilots to practice landing in austere locations with unfinished or shorter airstrips.

NORTH -- Just three miles east of the town of North lies a 2,400-acre airfield that has been touted as a critical link in the tactical mission training of C-17 cargo planes.

Situated 95 miles northwest of Charleston Air Force Base, the North Auxiliary Airfield is owned by the U.S. Air Force.

It is used primarily for C-17 Globemaster III training by the 437th Airlift Wing and its Air Force Reserve “associate” unit, the 315th Airlift Wing, at Charleston AFB.

The airfield’s runway is much shorter than the one at Charleston International Airport, where the squadron’s C-17 cargo fleet is based.

The North airfield helps pilots train to land in austere locations with unfinished or shorter airstrips.

The 628th Civil Engineer Squadron at Charleston AFB provides a detachment to maintain and operate the airfield.

In the last two years, the airfield has undergone some renovations.

The 3,500-foot runway, originally constructed of asphalt, was fixed in order to decrease the risk of foreign objects damaging airplanes and equipment.

Workers repurposed about 21,000 tons of asphalt from the old runway as the foundation below the new concrete.

The construction project included 66,000 linear feet of wire, a new runway lighting system and more than 36,000 square yards of asphalt shoulder in the landing zone.

The airfield has also been used as a staging location for supplies following a natural disaster. The Federal Emergency Management Agency used the airfield during Hurricane Florence in 2018 as an incident support base for supply distribution.

At one time, NASA considered the airfield an alternate landing site for the space shuttle.

In the 1990s, the airfield was on the list of landing sites that could be used in the event of an emergency landing. This was at a time when the airfield's main runway was 500 feet wide instead of 150 feet wide.

Established during World War II as a dispersal site for Air Force personnel, the land for the then-North Army Airfield was purchased between 1942 and 1945. The field was built by the U.S. Army Air Force.

The original dirt runway was constructed in April 1943 and used by Hughes Aircraft Co. for testing. It was also a satellite airfield of the Columbia Army Air base, supporting B-25 Mitchell medium bomber training for Air Force III Air Support Command.

After World War II, a 12,000-foot runway and a 3,000-foot assault runway were built.

North Airfield (later North Auxiliary Airfield, Northfield Air Base) has been under the jurisdiction of Fort Jackson, Shaw AFB and the Department of Energy.

On Oct. 1, 1979, Charleston AFB took control over the facility.

Combat Control Teams from Pope AFB, North Carolina, provide air traffic control for aircraft landings and air drops, and aerial delivery personnel from Joint Base Charleston provide recovery of air-dropped pallets.

For more information about the airfield, contact 803-247-2101

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Staff Writer

Gene Zaleski is a reporter/staff writer with The Times and Democrat.

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