The Mena Intermountain Municipal Airport played host to a flight of C-130s out of Little Rock Air Force Base (LRAFB) last Thursday and Friday.
The aircraft performed low approaches for about an hour before landing.
Crews waited for darkness to fall before taking off again for some lights-out tactical approaches while wearing night vision goggles and with infrared light beacons placed on the runway edges. The airport was closed to all air traffic except for military aircraft for about an hour each night as the crews executed their after-dark maneuvers.
LRAFB officers advise the exercise is an important part of the air crew training.
Officers said the training is a confidence builder, and the terrain here mimics some of the areas in which actual missions are flown. So, the crews are excited about flying over to Mena for this. They especially like the support the local population shows when locals come to watch them perform their maneuvers.
The FAA monitors the number of take-offs and landings at airports that receive federal funding, Airport manager Fred Odgen explained.
“An exercise such as this one does help the traffic count, which is a benefit for a small airport like Mena,” he said. “The airport has received grants totaling close to $8 million in the last two years.”
Ogden reports most everyone he talks to view this as a positive for Mena.
“Many of the local veterans and their family members recount stories of when their lives were touched by the C-130 or similar type aircraft,” Odgen said. “They have no objection and in fact enjoy a couple of evenings of listening to the sound of freedom.” Ogden thanked Mena Mayor Seth Smith and the Mena Fire Department for their support and contribution, which allows the flight exercise to be possible.