Officials ecstatic about C-5 announcement

April 12, 2002|BY SARAH MULLIN

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Berkeley County officials said they are pleased that the Air National Guard in Martinsburg is to receive 10 C-5 aircraft because it will bring more jobs to the area.

Maj. Mike Cadle, state public affairs officer for the W.Va. National Guard, said about 200 military and 200 civilian jobs will be added to the current 1,200 part- and full-time employees at the 167th Airlift Wing.

The addition of the C-5s will increase the current annual economic impact on the area surrounding Martinsburg from $32 million to an estimated $80 million, he said.


The increase will come from additional salaries, operational and airport maintenance needs, and supplies and parts, Cadle said.

"The commission is ecstatic regarding the 10 C-5s with the ... additional hiring of several hundred more people," Berkeley County Commission President Howard Strauss said.

"This is good news," Bob Crawford, executive director of the Berkeley County Development Authority, said. "This was something many of us knew was a possibility. I am delighted that it is now real."

U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., first raised with Department of Defense officials the issue of locating the larger cargo planes at the Martinsburg Air Guard facility in 1999.

The C-5 aircraft, expected to arrive in 2007, will require about $200 million in improvements to the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport.

The C-5 is one of the largest aircraft in the world with a wing span that exceeds 250 feet and a tail height equivalent to 10 stories, officials said.

Guard officials said runway and parking pad extensions will be needed and at least two new hangars will be built.

The Guard currently houses 12 C-130s, which are half the size of C-5s, at the airport.

"The Guard has been an important part of the community for over 50 years, and we're pleased with the C-5s because of the (future) expansion of the airport," Strauss said.

The difference in size and technology of the C-5 over the C-130 brings with it a new mission.

Cadle said C-130s are used for medium- to short-range airlift missions to transport supplies, goods and people within a region such as the Middle East or Europe.

C-5s are used for medium- to long-range airlift missions from one continent to another.

A C-5 aircraft can travel more than 6,000 miles without refueling, officials said.

The impetus behind the decision to phase out the C-130s from the Martinsburg base was made by the Department of Defense because it felt there were too many of the smaller planes, Cadle said.

The Charleston, W.Va., base has eight C-130s, making West Virginia one of only a few states that has two C-130 units, he said.

"Martinsburg will now have a different mission from the unit in Charleston, which will ensure the continual operation of the unit in Martinsburg for years to come," Cadle said.

Gov. Bob Wise said the state owes a debt of gratitude to Sen. Byrd, who was instrumental in ensuring that the aircraft would be located in Martinsburg.

Byrd announced the decision late Tuesday.

"This decision shows that the Air Force has great confidence in West Virginia's National Guard," Wise said in a statement.

"It also brings economic growth to the Eastern Panhandle and offers job security to many people who work at the 167th Airlift Wing," he said.

Cadle said Guard employees will be given the opportunity to retrain so they can work and fly on the C-5s, or they can ask for a transfer if they want to continue with the C-130s.

"We are not going to displace workers and the decision to retrain or transfer is completely up to the individual," Cadle said.

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