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Colonel: Takeoffs will be less frequent with C-5s

February 11, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The familiar sight of cargo planes flying from a local West Virginia Air National Guard base is expected to become a less-frequent occurrence.

That's because the huge C-5 transport planes the 167th Airlift Wing is to receive will be much more expensive to fly compared with the C-130 plane the Airlift Wing now uses, base officials said Thursday.

As a result, the number of flights will be reduced, base officials said.

About 17,000 flights go out of the base every year, but that number will be reduced to about 600 a year when the C-5s arrive, Col. Bill Burkhart told the Berkeley County Commissioners on Thursday.

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Instead of relying on actual flights for training, the base will have a flight simulator which pilots will use to train for actual flights on the C-5, Burkhart said.

Burkhart described the flight simulator as a "Game Boy-type" box.

"It's nothing but a big video game. I can't wait to get it in there," Burkhart said.

The C-5 is one of the largest airplanes in the world. Its cargo area is longer than the Wright Brothers' first flight, Lt. John Poland said.

The air guard base is expected to initially receive between eight and 10 C-5s around late 2007, Poland said.

To make way for the planes, about $230 million worth of construction is under way at the base's location at the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport south of Martinsburg.

The project includes construction of three hangars, which will be about triple the size of current hangars at the base, Poland said.

When the planes are fueled, the fuel is pumped into bladders in the wings of the planes, Burkhart said. Special conditions are required to maintain the bladders, and one hangar will be reserved for that work, Burkhart said.

Construction on the facilities is expected to continue through 2008, Poland said.

Commission President Steven Teufel told Burkhart that the project presents "quite a task before you."

The 167th Airlift Wing provides support to military operations abroad and has sent hundreds of members to Iraq in support of the military operations there.

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