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One REALLY Long Runway for Rent 211

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the freefall-is-good-unless-it's-your-budget dept.
DarkNemesis618 writes "NASA is looking into putting its 15,000 foot runway up for rent at the Kennedy Space Center. The runway, which is used for Space Shuttle landings, will soon be used less and less as the Shuttle fleet is set to be retired in 2010. The first private venture was seen last month when Steve Fossett took off at KSC in Virgin Atlantic's experimental plane. One promising deal in the works comes from Zero Gravity Corp. which offers customers a few seconds of weightlessness on a Boeing 727-200. The shuttle runway, built in the 1970s never got the use it was expected to, and with the next generation of space vehicles using parachutes to land, the runway is going to have even less use."
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One REALLY Long Runway for Rent

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @05:11PM (#14927475)
    They should smash it and auction off the pieces. It'd probably pay for itself.
  • Runway Lengths (Score:5, Informative)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <<akaimbatman> <at> <gmail.com>> on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @05:12PM (#14927479) Homepage Journal
    15,000 feet may seem like a lot, but it often helps to put things into perspective. For example, O'Hare International Airport has 6 paved runways with the following stats:
    Direction Length Surface
    14R/32L 13,001 Paved
    14L/32R 10,301 Paved
    09R/27L 10,144 Paved
    04R/22L 8.071 Paved
    09L/27R 7,969 Paved
    04L/22R 7,500 Paved
    John F. Kennedy International Airport has 4 runways with the following stats:
    Direction Length Surface
    4L/22R 11,351 Asphalt/Concrete
    4R/22L 8,400 Asphalt
    13L/31R 10,000 Asphalt
    13R/31L 14,572 Asphalt/Concrete
    So this runway is only about 428 feet longer than the longest runway at JFK International. (13R/31L - 14,572ft) Given that 14,000+ feet is already a huge amount of space, we can conclude that the KSC runway would be more interesting to new space ventures because of its location and lack of commercial traffic rather than its outright length.
    • by epgandalf (105735) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @05:16PM (#14927525) Homepage
      Area 51 also has a really long runway. You can check it out on Google Maps or wikipedia. If you need a long runway, I'm sure the military wouldn't mind letting you use it.
      • Re:Runway Lengths (Score:3, Interesting)

        by CastrTroy (595695)
        Just checked that out, it's pretty cool (just type area 51 into google maps). What's interesting is that the "map" feature shows nothing, and there's actually a really large area that seems "blacked out". On the other hand, the satellite view shows area 51 with pretty good precision.
    • Re:Runway Lengths (Score:3, Informative)

      by iamlucky13 (795185)
      ...and Edwards Airforce Base has a paved runway about 15,000 feet long, but there is an additional 10 miles or so of marked dry lake bed suitable for landing a wide range of aircraft on and considered part of the runway. Bottom line: this is a long runway, possibly even a really long runway, but not a REALLY long runway.
      • Re:Runway Lengths (Score:4, Informative)

        by AKAImBatman (238306) * <<akaimbatman> <at> <gmail.com>> on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @05:26PM (#14927616) Homepage Journal
        Edwards Airforce Base has a paved runway about 15,000 feet long, but there is an additional 10 miles or so of marked dry lake bed suitable for landing a wide range of aircraft

        Good point. I used to use that runway in X-Plane to take off custom spaceplanes. The extra runway was extremely helpful in getting the vehicle off the ground. Especially when I equipped the craft with ejectable JATO bottles in lieu of a proper Solid Rocket Booster. :-)

        (In case anyone is wondering: No, I never made it to orbit. As soon as I hit Mach 5, I overstress the frame and lose a wing or somesuch. If I don't hit Mach 5, I run out of fuel before I obtain orbit. Even in the simulated NASP craft that is supposed to be able to make it to orbit. Guess I better let a real pilot at the controls.)
      • Yep, the dry lakebeds have saved many, many test pilots lives and many expiremental planes. More info can be found at the Edwards AFB [af.mil] website.
    • Re:Runway Lengths (Score:5, Informative)

      by Xandu (99419) * <matt AT truch DOT net> on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @05:22PM (#14927562) Homepage Journal
      In fact, the higher you go in elevation, the longer runway planes need. The longest runway at Denver [wikipedia.org], for example, is 16,000 feet.
      • Hmm, the Boeing 777 requires up to 15000 [boeing.com] feet for takeoff (see page 8) depending on flaps, takeoff elevation, and loadout. So you're right, 15000 feet isn't so absurd at all. Though at some point, why not just taxi the plane to your destination?
    • Re:Runway Lengths (Score:5, Interesting)

      by nharmon (97591) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @05:22PM (#14927565) Homepage
      KSC's runway is 300ft wide. 13R/31L at KJFK is 150ft wide.
      • Re:Runway Lengths (Score:3, Interesting)

        by AKAImBatman (238306) *
        That's also a very good point. However, with the current crop of commercial space vehicles, this probably doesn't matter quite as much. Once these vehicles start obtaining footprints similar to that of the Space Shuttle, then the width of the runway will probably matter a lot more.
    • Re:Runway Lengths (Score:5, Interesting)

      by emerrill (110518) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @05:29PM (#14927655)
      As somewhat pointed out, the 2 most important things about the KSC are its width (2-3 times the width of a standard, large, commercial runway), and its flatness.

      The KSC runway varies no more the 1in vertically along its length. Its so flat, it was specifically designed to properly follow the curvature of the earth. Most commecial runways are very very not flat, they usually have long period (1 or 2 over the length) undulations in them.
    • Re:Runway Lengths (Score:4, Informative)

      by badasscat (563442) <basscadet75&yahoo,com> on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @06:30PM (#14928308)
      So this runway is only about 428 feet longer than the longest runway at JFK International. (13R/31L - 14,572ft)

      Well, to put THAT into perspective, 13R/31L is one of the longest runways in the United States. There are only a few longer:

      # Denver Intl Airport (DEN) in Denver, CO has a 16,000' x 200' runway.
      # Southern California Logistics Airport (VCV) in Victorville, CA has a 15,050' x 150' runway.
      # Edwards AFB Airport (EDW) in Edwards, CA has a 15,013' x 300' runway.
      # Nasa Shuttle Landing Facility Airport (X68) in Titusville, FL has a 15,000' x 300' runway.
      # Vandenberg AFB Airport (VBG) in Lompoc, CA has a 15,000' x 200' runway.

      That's from MyAFD.com. [myafd.com]

      So, still a pretty long runway by any standard. I mean that's nearly three miles, or about 50% longer than the runways at most major airports. (LaGuardia's runways, for example, are only 7,500 feet long, and yes, widebodies can and do use this airport.)
      • Define "Wide Body" in relation to LGA please. They have to limit what flys in and out of there (You'll never see a 747 or 777 there - can't land) - plus LGA is known for it's really SHORT runways, with practically NO runout. Come in over Flushing Bay, and plant the wheels - or the other way, just clear the Grand Central Parkway
      • I've done a low pass over KSC's runway (in a Beech Bonanza - in about 2000). I've also flown into KDEN in a light plane. KSC's looks a lot bigger, that extra 100 feet of width makes the difference :-)
        • ). I've also flown into KDEN in a light plane. KSC's looks a lot bigger, that extra 100 feet of width makes the difference :-)

          The 16,000ft runway at KDEN (16R/32L) is relatively new; you may have flown in before it was completed. Aren't landing fees at KDEN pretty high as well?
    • And to think one of our proper interstellar spaceports (Greater Green River Intergalactic Spaceport) up in Wyoming is only 5800 feet long.

      http://www.airnav.com/airport/48U [airnav.com]
  • Big Space Party Pad? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by drewzhrodague (606182) <(drew) (at) (zhrodague.net)> on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @05:12PM (#14927487) Homepage Journal
    Perhaps a bunch of us could get together, and rent it out once a year -- ala Burningman, Xday, and the like. Perhaps us Science geeks, and Sci-Fi freaks could show-up for a weekend of partying, to celebrate spacetravel, and the persuits to get there. Me, I just want another excuse to party.
  • Oh yes! (Score:5, Funny)

    by plopez (54068) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @05:15PM (#14927508) Journal
    Who's up for getting a '75 Chevy Nova and some RATO packs!
  • by suso (153703) * on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @05:17PM (#14927535) Homepage Journal
    15 thousand 0 0 0 feet. How long does....
  • by QBasicer (781745) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @05:17PM (#14927536) Homepage Journal
    Maybe with a runway that size I could actually land on it. Heck, all runways should be that long, so that planes won't "overshoot" the runway like you see in the news.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @05:17PM (#14927540)
    hopscotch tournament?

    I know you want to.
  • For the metric crew: (Score:4, Informative)

    by b4stard (893180) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @05:21PM (#14927558)
    15 000 feet = 4 572 meter
  • by ch-chuck (9622) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @05:25PM (#14927603) Homepage
    Alien [abheritage.ca] landing [inspi.net] strip. [usatoday.com]
  • by haplo21112 (184264) <haplo&epithna,com> on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @05:25PM (#14927608) Homepage
    I remember when i was younger the excitement of thinking that with the shuttles the potential of space flight would only grow from point on. The pure simple idea that pretty much in my life time there would come a time when space flight would become routine. When there would be a spacecraft lifting off once or even twice in the same week.

    Unfortunately the shuttles never got there. The reasons are many and varied, and ultimately stupid. The ramp up the potential never happened. I can remember a time when NASA was considering the possibility of many many more shuttles.

    Its sad really.

    We (humanity as a whole) should by now have a much greater presense in space. The technology should have advanced to a far greater state than it has at time time. We are pretty much still stuck in the same place as we were in the late 1970's. The shuttles tech has seen little change from the 1970's tech that was in place when they were first drawn up.

    The really comical part is at this point we are planning to more forward, by going backwards to tech that predates the shuttle program. Admittedly the shuttles didn't work out, they were probably to for4ward thinking when they were first developed. We are now in a place where we do not have the time, or perhaps even the desire to back to the drawing board and bring to bear the full weight of out current technology.

    The End result we will continue in space, however it will continue as a lackluster effort.
    • I thought about leaving a nice long addendum to your post but instead I'll go for the short version. The drive to do great things in space ended when going to the moon became routine. People stopped paying attention to what was happening.

      The want from NASA to reclaim some of this old glory and expand on it still exists but its rather difficult to do so when your budget is cut year after year. The Apollo program had the benefit of having a near limitless budget whereas all the missions since then have had
      • The drive to do great things in space ended when going to the moon became routine.

        Make that "routine" in quotation marks. It never truly became routine, but by the time of Apollo 13, the general public was already treating it as such. Marylin Lovell was shocked to see the low press turn out at press briefings held before her husband's launch. Nobody cared.

        The sad part is that only nerds get truly excited about earning second place in space. When Armstrong and Aldrin walked on the moon, it was, to parap

    • Well a part of it is that men are needed less and less in space and fewer and fewer satellites are needed.
      Fiber Optics are really much better at carrying fixed point to fixed point communications than are satellites are. The throw in Moore`s law and the idea of repairing a satellite really makes less and less sense. By the time they fail technology is so much better that it better to replace it than to bring it back and fix it. The total number of launches are lower then expected and while the idea of repai
    • We (humanity as a whole) should by now have a much greater presense in space. The technology should have advanced to a far greater state than it has at time time. We are pretty much still stuck in the same place as we were in the late 1970's. The shuttles tech has seen little change from the 1970's tech that was in place when they were first drawn up.

      One of the reasons we continue to stagnate is the insistence that we need some (always unspecified and handwaving) technology to make acess to space routine.

      • "What he haven't had is the will to discard the dead end path that boosters and spacecraft have taken and replace it the same standard methods that have worked time and again in virtually every other field of human economic behavior."

        Care to flesh that comment out...?

        I see potential in the space elevator concept...A.C. Clarke Proposed it years before anyone took it seriously, and lets just say thus far his hard science fiction tends to be rather prophetic...but since that doesn't yet exist...how do we get t
  • Advertising (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mr Wrinkle (954196) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @05:31PM (#14927675)
    Along similar lines, I reckon that NASA should sell advertising space on the side of launch vehicles, etc, to help cover costs of launch. How much would (e.g.) McDonalds be willing to pay for a frickin' huge yellow 'M' on the side of a rocket? I'd bet a million or three $'s, at least. (After all, companies pay millions for 30s during superbowl commercials...) To a small science mission on a budget of a couple of hundred million, this would be a really big deal, IMO.
    Just my 2c...
    • Majorly complex engineering projects like the shuttle try to eliminate any unnecessary variances in its mode of operation. Beleive it or not, those engineers would have to spend about a year researching about whether yellow paint heats differently than red or white paint.

      It simply wouldn't be cost effective.
  • You could fit a lot of astronomers, their RVs and vendors on that strip. The light pollution wouldn't be too bad there either since it's not in the center of the Cape.
  • I wonder... (Score:4, Funny)

    by jon.wolf (938920) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @05:37PM (#14927759)
    I wonder if the Mythbusters could afford to rent it for a month or so.

    I'm sure there's something cool that Adam & Jamie could test there.

    Something dangerous.

  • by SJS (1851) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @05:39PM (#14927773) Homepage Journal
    I want to rent it for an hour or three to take my WRX out to play where there's nothing to hit. Parking lots often have light poles, or security guards who get irate. Taking my car to an SCCA event voids my warranty. An empty stretch of highway might not be so empty, and tickets obtained while "seeing how fast my car can go" tend to be REALLY expensive.

    Nearly three miles of empty pavement sounds like a lot of (pretty safe) fun.

    • wouldn't be so much fun as the track is so completely flat and straight. You'd want something with more curves. Or do the real thing and go to the german autobahn! Make sure your brakes work well, though, you'll need them a lot ;)
    • What about the Salt Lake Flats? I'm planning on migrating out there for a week or hopefully this August
  • by IflyRC (956454)
    This would be awesome to fly at. Considering so many clubs are being closed due to urban encroachment and noise they should allow R/C airplanes on this runway a couple of days a week. I know - but just dreaming....
    • Ick no thanks.

      Land masses next to water typically always have strong winds because of the temperature differences. a Giant piece of pavement like that during a sunny day next to water like that will pretty much guarentee that every RC plane and copter flown there will die a horrible death. with the massive updrafts and fast crosswinds from the colder water coming in.

      RC needs light wind, a large field surrounded by trees is best as it really slows down any winds and makes life easier for the RC pilot.
  • Giant Slab (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FiberOpPraise (607416) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @05:42PM (#14927802) Homepage
    Despite being one really huge runway there is something else I learned while visiting the Kennedy Space Center. The entire runway complete in a single pouring Essentially it is one gigantic slab of concrete with no cracks in it.
    • Interesting. The reason why concrete is poured in slabs is to allow for expansion. How does the KSC runway cope with this issue?
    • by jd (1658) <imipak@@@yahoo...com> on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @06:15PM (#14928165) Homepage Journal
      I've got the ultimate answer. The guys with the money to do this are the F1 high-fliers. What you'd do is use this as an extremely long straight, then widen a whole bunch of service roads to give you the rest of the circuit (the same way that Silverstone was built, essentially).


      The speeds they could reach on a circuit like that would be hair-raising, the overtaking opportunities would be superb, and you'd be able to get more spectators in. If NASA got a percent cut on the ticket sales, they'd be able to fund all of their real work, and so everyone would be happy.

      • Insert joke here ...
        • I'm being serious, and yes, most F1 racetracks are old airfields.
          • Like the others said, no they arent, and it would make no sense to use this kind of runway to start a new ring.

            Because maximum speed already has to be limited by course design, the runsway is to narrow for any kind of courves with suitabl runoff area, and a straight "high speed" course would probably kill a driver each race at least...
  • There is precedent for converting it into a drag racing strip. RAF Podington [controltowers.co.uk], a USAAF airfield in WWII, home of the 92nd Bomb Group [327th.org] with their B-17 [af.mil] bombers, was converted after the war into the Santa Pod drag strip [santapod.co.uk], now the most famous drag strip in the U.K.
  • by heli0 (659560) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @05:58PM (#14927979)
  • Even sadder... (Score:5, Informative)

    by fm6 (162816) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @05:58PM (#14927980) Homepage Journal
    ... than underused shuttle facilities at KSC is the Air Force shuttle facility [aero.org] on the west coast, which cost $6 billion, and was never used at all.
    • Re:Even sadder... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Gen-GNU (36980) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @07:27PM (#14928738)
      This is probably too late to be read, but here goes anyway...

      Yes, SLC-6 (pronounced slick-6) was expensive and never used for a shuttle launch. After the Challenger disaster, shuttle operations went from expanding to contracting, and despite what they will tell you publicly, it never recovered. Not only was SLC-6 built, but rather extensive work was done at Vandenberg AFB to allow for moving the shuttle. Hills were flattened, and certain roads still have short road signs, so they fit under the wings when it was to be driven to/from SLC-6.

      When Challenger happened, NASA needed an excuse, and found one. They claimed that the hills near SLC-6 would reflect the thrust from the shuttle back on it, shaking it apart before it ever took off. And they can't knock the hills down, because they could be seen from a public beach, so Californian law says they can't be touched. It was basically a convienent way to slim down the shuttle program.

      As a side note, the runway at Vandenberg was also expanded, and is still an alternate landing site for the shuttle. I assume it is the same size as KSC. I remember a private pilot telling me the thing was so wide you could land a cessna on it sideways. It was so long, you could do 3 touch and go's in one pass
      • I don't know that much about the history of the shuttle program, but the site I linked to claimed that SLC-6 was doomed by the modifications made to the shuttle after the Challenger disaster. They made it impossible to for the shuttle to reach polar orbit, and without that, there was no point to a second launch facility.

        Whatever the real story, I think you're seeing conspiracies where there aren't any. By the time they decided to close down SLC-6, it was obvious that the original shuttle concept wasn't wo

  • ... Not Virgin GALACTIC?

    Because if Virgin Atlantic have bought SS1-derived spaceplanes, then there's an opportunity for a hell of a fast trip to Europe. There's a runway in Spain capable of taking the Space Shuttle; though it's never been used, it's a factor in various abort scenarios.

    Lifting off from Canaveral in a SpaceShip 2 and landing in Spain would make the old Concorde record time look pretty pathetic.

    • It'd make the old Concorde ticket cost look pretty pathetic too. There might be a tiny niche market for people who have money to burn and absolutely positivly must be in Europe or the US ASAP.
      • There might be a tiny niche market for people who have money to burn and absolutely positivly must be in Europe or the US ASAP.

        It would be about the same market as there is for a suborbital spaceflight, I imagine. In fact, this might even add to the attraction: you take off in a rocket, go ballistic over the ocean, leave the atmosphere, see the stars, experience weightlessness - and as a bonus, you come down in Europe. You've got to admit it would be a hell of a way to begin your holiday.

    • Lifting off from Canaveral in a SpaceShip 2 and landing in Spain would make the old Concorde record time look pretty pathetic.

      Actually, Branson has mentioned [floridatoday.com] that even though his first spaceport will be in New Mexico, they're considering building a spaceport at Cape Canaveral later on. The shuttle runway would be an ideal place for WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo to operate from.
    • There is a landing strip in Spain that can be used in case of emergency. It's never been used, which is probably a good thing as the landing strip ends with a rather severe drop. Shuttle pilots would have to nail the landing perfectly or else find a good way to jump from the shuttle. Unlike the landing strip at Edwards AFB or the KSC, there is positively NO room for error. At Edwards and KSC there's not a lot of room for error, but if they touch down 50 feet late, they're not gonna end up in a ditch at
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @06:11PM (#14928114) Homepage Journal
    Finally the government operating a natural role as the infrastructure monopoly investing in the startup of private American industry. NASA overall has produced probably the best ROI on any US government investment in the 20th Century. And the US space industry is at the crossroads for going live, both positioned to deliver services and facing foreign competition.

    Let's spend hundreds of billions of the dollars that we currently mostly waste on Pentagon corporate welfare that makes the US feared around the world instead spent on NASA investment in infrastructure to support private corporations. Let's get the US aerospace industry to compete by raising private investment to fund competitions for achieving goals like Lunar power stations and manned Martian research bases. Let's get NASA to become solely a policy, design, testing and certification agency, and subsidize American corporations to pass our highest criteria ahead of foreign ones.

    Let's take it [answers.com] to the stars!
    • Let's spend hundreds of billions of the dollars that we currently mostly waste on Pentagon corporate welfare that makes the US feared around the world instead spent on NASA investment in infrastructure to support private corporations.

      Coincidentally, NASA recently announced plans to create Red Planet Capital [spaceref.com], a venture capital fund for private spaceflight startups. Hopefully it won't be killed off by overzealous congresscritters.

      A description from NASA's page:

      In order for NASA to specifically focus on entrep
  • Dragway. (Score:2, Funny)

    by 0m3gaMan (745008)
    SUNDAY! SUNDAY! SUNDAYYY!!!

    Come see renegade Slashdot nerds pilot their rocket-powered, case-modded FUNNYCAAARRRS!!!!

  • by AceyMan (199978) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @06:20PM (#14928212)
    KTTS "NASA Shuttle Landing Facility" details here:

    Runway Information
    Runway 15/33
    Dimensions: 15000 x 300 ft. / 4572 x 91 m
    Surface: concrete/grooved, in good condition
    Weight bearing capacity:
    Single wheel: 120000 lbs
    Double wheel: 220000 lbs
    Double tandem: 500000 lbs
    Dual double tandem: 800000 lbs
    Runway edge lights: non-standard
    NSTD HIRL; 85' FR RWY EDGE.
            RUNWAY 15 RUNWAY 33
    Gradient: 0.0 0.0
    Traffic pattern: left left
    Markings: precision, in good condition precision, in good condition
    Approach lights: ALSF2: standard 2,400 foot high intensity approach lighting system with centerline sequenced flashers (category II or III) ALSF2: standard 2,400 foot high intensity approach lighting system with centerline sequenced flashers (category II or III)
    Centerline lights: yes
    CL RWY 15-33 NSTD, 10,000'. yes
    .
    .
    cribbed from airnav.com [sweet site]
  • by carambola5 (456983) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @06:26PM (#14928276) Homepage
    Along with it being 15000 feet long and 300 ft wide, the shuttle runway has other special characteristics. For example, the surface roughness is so great that it can handle an incredible amount of rain (~4 inches per hour, IIRC) before requiring a landing scrub due to a hydroplaning landing. Of course, the Shuttle can't handle rain anyways, since it would damage those cursed tiles. The result is that the really really expensive Shuttle tires are replaced after every landing because so much rubber is worn away.

    Also, the macroscopic flatness (ie: delta elevation/foot of runway) is an order of magnitude better than typical airport runways.

    If you ever get the chance to have an escorted tour around the Johnson Space Center (students: find alumni working there!), make sure to check out the test landing strip there. It is beyond cool. They accelerate a multi-ton carriage at 30 g's to simulate a landing... and then dump copious amounts of water in front of it.
    • Actually they significantly toned down the runway after the first few flights to it.

      They were worried about cross winds and such, and not knowing how the shuttle would handle on it, so they made it basically the most aggressive runway surface made. It was so abrasive, that after a single landing, the rubber would be worn of all the way down to the structural cording in the tire (the material behind that tred/outer layers of rubber)

      With the runway as it is now, the tires are actually rated for 3 (or maybe 4)
  • by ptomblin (1378) <ptomblin@xcski.com> on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @07:34PM (#14928811) Homepage Journal
    I'd like to go and do about a dozen touch and goes without having to turn.
  • The former Wurthsmith AFB (now Oscoda-Wursmith Airport [wikipedia.org]) has an 11,800 ft (3,597m) runway. It was previously used for B-52s and KC-135s, and now hosts some cargo and refurbishing air traffic.

    Anyways, I have seen some engineers using the runway to test C6-R Corvettes [corvetteracing.com]. I would guess they worked for a private team, since GM has test facilities. Every once and awhile a fire truck and ambulance would park near the runway and a car would come out do a few passes down the runway.

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