Thursday, June 7, 2018

Was that a UFO? KDOT helps route F-35A on its journey to Wichita

No, it wasn’t a UFO — unless by UFO you mean “UN-FLYING-OBJECT.”

An F-35A is hauled through the U.S. 77 and U.S. 169 roundabout in Cowley County while on its way to the National Institute for Aviation Research at Wichita State University. 

Several residents of south central Kansas joked that an F-35A “durability ground test article” that the Kansas Department of Transportation helped route on its journey from Houston to Wichita was a UFO. The oversize load definitely was not something you see every day on the highway.

The aircraft is the second of three expected to be tested at the National Institute for Aviation Research at Wichita State University.

Engineering Technician Specialist Barry Santee at KDOT’s South Central Kansas District reviewed the route the jet took to ensure it would safely get to Wichita, taking into consideration the height of signs, the width between bridges and the width of roads.

The trucking company that transported the jet applied for a permit for the oversize load through the Kansas Truck Routing and Intelligent Permitting System.

“I have to override restrictions to make it work,” Santee said.

Doing so “takes a lot of communication” between various agencies.

“We’ve got to let all the locals and law enforcement know. Our subareas are involved too,” he said.

In Kansas, the jet came up U.S. 77 to K-15 and then up I-135 to NIAR’s facility at the old Kansas Coliseum.

Oversize routes must follow the approved route. Permits are good for 30 days, Santee said.

“Right now, we have 300 to 400 in the queue at any time in the month” for the district, one of six in Kansas. “I have seen it as much as a thousand in a month.”

Drone footage of the aircraft as it makes its way through Winfield. 

Routing oversize loads like the jet is lot of work, Santee said, “but it’s part of commerce.”
Many residents who saw the jet, which did not have an engine, took photographs of it. Winfield Area Engineer AJ Wilson took a photo of it from above with his drone.

A statement from NIAR said that “as part of the F-35 program, durability ground test aircraft undergo exhaustive testing to validate the structural integrity of the airframe to withstand a variety of maneuvers it will experience throughout its lifetime.”

The testing is required by the Federal Aviation Administration. The test aircraft will undergo a full disassembly and inspection at NIAR.

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