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Air Guard will get C-5s

April 10, 2002|BY SARAH MULLIN

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

The West Virginia Air National Guard's 167th Airlift Wing base in Martinsburg, W.Va., will be the home of 10 C-5 planes, according to a Tuesday announcement from U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va.

Before the C-5s arrive in 2007, about $200 million in improvements, including runway extensions, must be made to the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport, Byrd said in a prepared release.

Byrd included funding in an appropriations bill for fiscal 2002 to begin the upgrades.

"This is a surprise," said Lt. Col. Roger Sencindiver, chief of staff for the 167th Airlift Wing.

He said the Guard learned two years ago that it might be in line to receive the aircraft but did not know how many.

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Byrd first raised the issue of locating the C-5s at the Martinsburg Air Guard facility with Department of Defense officials in 1999.

"With this selection, the 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg will have a new and more dynamic role in our nation's armed forces," Byrd said in a prepared statement.

"This announcement ensures we will have a military base here for a long time," Rick Wachtel, chairman of the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport Authority Board, said Tuesday night.

The Regional Airport is the home for the Guard's 12 C-130s, an aircraft that eventually will be phased out, he said.

A C-5 is larger than a commercial airliner and has a wing span that exceeds 250 feet, a tail height equivalent to 10 stories, and can fly more than 6,000 miles without stopping, Wachtel said.

The size of the C-5s will require new construction and demolition of old buildings to make room for the newer facilities.

Sencindiver said at least two new hangers and runway extensions will be needed for the cargo planes.

The airport's longest runway is 7,400 feet long and a C-5 needs 10,000 feet, he said.

Sencindiver said it was too soon to speculate about construction work because the Guard only heard the news Tuesday.

He said he plans to meet with an engineer soon, possibly today, to start work on the plans.

"The aircraft will enable us to manage any mission, and we will be set to handle any size aircraft (at the facility)," Sencindiver said.

The new construction and aircraft will result in more jobs at the Guard base, Sencindiver said. He said the largest number of new employees will be in the field of mechanics and the construction projects will provide jobs.

The guard currently employs about 1,200 part- and full-time personnel and has an annual economic impact of about $32 million, Byrd said.

"The C-5 project has potential to double the work force here. In a time when the area is losing jobs, this is a very positive thing," Wachtel said.

The airport has 1,700 employees, including the Guard's 1,200.

"This gives us unlimited growth potential. The new construction will open more avenues to the community," Sencindiver said.

He said commercial flight services might look into using the airport facility in the future.

"This is excellent news. The 167th is an important partner. They pay a tremendous amount of service to the airport for work we can't afford to do on our own," Wachtel said.

The Air Guard has about 45 more years remaining on a 99-year lease with the airport, he said.

"Our Guard unit works very hard to be the best they can be and they are being rewarded for that now," Wachtel said.

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