New Tennessee Air National Guard Base Includes Super-Size Hangars

Jim Faber
Published in: 

The largest Air National Guard project in history is all but complete at Memphis International Airport. And the scope is staggering.

At stake was the relocation of the Tennessee Air National Guard's 164th Airlift Wing from its former home at the north end of the airport to a much larger, more modern base at the southeast corner of the airport.

The $245 million, 118-acre project includes:

  • 28-acre aircraft parking apron with 14-inch thick pavement

  • New connector taxiway with 6,000 square yards of pavement

  • Two hangar buildings housing three hangars at 320,000 total square feet

  • Two parking lots for 900 vehicles

  • Four administrative buildings with nearly 186,000 square feet of space

  • Two industrial buildings

  • POL facilities and hydrant fueling system

The project required four general contractors and some 800 workers during peak construction. CH2M HILL, the program manager for the massive project, developed the master plan in 2004. Site construction began in early 2005 and the first vertical construction started in June 2006.

All of that means communication, coordination and careful scheduling - one of the biggest issues, says CH2M HILL program manager Max Schmiege.

Plan of Attack

With such a large, varied project, CH2M HILL, the Air National Guard and the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority took steps during the planning process to ease the construction process. The vertical contractors were pre-selected for specific parts of the project when the designers of those parts were selected so the firms could work together from the beginning.

Architectural finishes, fire detection/alarm systems and many of the other mechanical components were coordinated during the design as "base-wide common items".

Facts and Figures

Project: New National Guard base – TN ANG 164th Airlift Wing

Location: Memphis International Airport

Program Management Team: CH2M HILL, The Crump Firm, DMJM

Size: 118 acres; six buildings

Total Cost: $245 million

Timeline: Vertical construction began in June 2006; completion scheduled for August 2008.

The Need: New state-of-the-art base to serve the 164th Airlift Wing's changing mission

The Challenge: Coordinating eight design firms, four general contractors and five different contracts

Key Participants

Design Consultants Site/civil landside: SSR Ellers

Water/natural gas utilities: E.W. Moon

Landscape/irrigation/hardscape: Jackson Person & Associates

OSP and ISP COMM: IT Logistics

Apron, taxiway, hydrant fueling system: Pond & Co.

Hangars: Frankfurt-Short-Bruza

Administration Buildings: The Ritchie Organization

Industrial Buildings: Benham Group

Construction Contractors

Apron/taxiway, landside utilities, retaining walls, parking lots, roadways, street lighting and sidewalks): APAC-TN

Hangars: Alberici Constructors

Administration buildings, industrial buildings, irrigation, landscaping, signage, hardscape and gate houses: Flintco, Inc.

POL facilities: Reliable Contracting Group

"We wanted a consistent look throughout the base and an approach that minimizes maintenance for the ANG," Schmiege says.

The approaches paid off, as nearly every deadline was met.

"None of this is rocket science," Schmiege notes. "but it takes proper planning to achieve."

Even with so many moving parts, work went smoothly.

"The Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority spent considerable time and effort to ensure the selected prime contractors were firms with a history of working successfully with other prime contractors," says Terry Pursley, project manager for Alberici Constructors, the general contractor for the procurement and construction of the three aircraft hangars.

Coordination was also emphasized during the design process.

"Very clear lines of demarcation were established as to where one party's design ended and the next design firm's responsibilities began," Pursley explains.

That same forward-thinking and advance planning are apparently standard operating procedure for the airport authority.

"We have approached this construction project with the same team and collaborative approach that we do everything at the airport," says Larry Cox, president and CEO of the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority. "Much coordination was required to meet all of the necessary rules and procedures that are necessary with a multi-party project that included the Department of Defense, Tennessee Air National Guard, FedEx and the (airport authority)."

The Air National Guard's move was spurred, in part, by FedEx' need to expand. The Memphis-based shipping company - the world's largest airline in terms of freight tons - is expanding its operations where the Air National Guard base used to be. The Guard is leasing the new space from the airport.

"By relocating the new base from its current location in the middle of the FedEx global hub to a greenfield site on the airport, which is far away from air cargo and passenger handling facilities, we have been able to expand the FedEx hub and not interfere with future expansion of passenger airline facilities," Cox says. "This truly is a win/win/win situation."

FedEx is funding about $77 million of the total project cost.

Bigger Aircraft, Bigger Hangars

The new base comes as the 164th Airlift Wing is changing its mission. It is also using new and larger aircraft: the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy, an approximately 250-foot long, 65-foot high intercontinental transport aircraft with a 222-foot wingspan.

The C-5 Galaxy is replacing the C-141, which has a more modest length of approximately 168 feet, height of around 40 feet and wingspan of about 160 feet.

Creating a home for the C-5 Galaxy meant putting three hangars under two roofs. At 320,000 square feet, the hangars comprise more than half of the building area for the entire base.

Alberici Constructors project manager Pursley reports that the two biggest challenges in constructing massive hangars were installing a fire protection system and erecting 260-foot roof trusses with bottom chords 75 feet above floor level.

Security Fire Protection Company installed the fire system, which combines a standard wet sprinkler system with a high expansive foam (HEF) system. The HEF system drops biodegradable fire suppression foam from the 75-foot high roof truss bottom chords. And it all happens quickly.

"Ninety percent of the C-5 aircraft silhouette is covered in 60 seconds from when the HEF system is activated," Pursley explains.

Interest in the super-size hangars is a given, but curiosity about the HEF fire suppression system is also notably high. "The lessons learned on this project will be used nationwide for similar projects," notes Pursley. 


2022 Charlotte Douglas International Airport Report of Achievement

Giving back to the community is central to what Charlotte Douglas International Airport and its operator, the City of Charlotte Aviation Department, is about, and last year was no different. 

Throughout 2022, while recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, we continued our efforts to have a positive impact on the Charlotte community. Of particular note, we spent the year sharing stories of how Connections Don't Just Happen at the Terminal - from creating homeownership and employment opportunities to supporting economic growth through small-business development and offering outreach programs to help residents understand the Airport better.

This whitepaper highlights the construction projects, initiatives, programs and events that validate Charlotte Douglas as a premier airport.

Download the whitepaper: 2022 Charlotte Douglas International Airport Report of Achievement.



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