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Airport could receive $62 million gift

November 19, 2005|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - If President Bush signs the bill, Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport will get $62 million toward the cost of extending the runway and other upgrades to handle the military's giant C-5 cargo planes, U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd said Friday in a press release.

Byrd, D-W.Va., said the legislation won final congressional approval Friday and now heads to Bush for his signature.

"This funding will go a long way toward preparing the airport for the new fleet of C-5 aircraft at the 167th Airlift Wing. Each day brings us closer to the arrival of those planes and the new mission for the 167th," Byrd said in the release.

The appropriation includes $23 million for a C-5 corrosion control hangar, $20 million for new jet fuel storage and fuel hydrant systems and expanding the airplane parking apron, and $2 million for maintenance facility upgrades.

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Another $17 million will pay to extend the runway from its current 7,015 feet to 8,815 feet to accommodate C-5s, one of the world's largest airplanes. The runway will be widened.

Lt. Col. C. Roger Sencindiver, commander of the 167th Airlift Wing, could not be reached for comment Friday.

The new construction won't have a direct effect on the civilian side of the airport off Kelly Island Road, said Rick Wachtel, chairman of the Berkeley County Airport Authority.

"It will be a help overall," Wachtel said. "There will be a new air crash rescue facility and the runway will be extended."

Airport Manager William Walkup said the extended runway will enable the airport to accept larger corporate and commercial airliners.

"With the growth of the big three - BWI, Dulles and National airport - we're starting to handle larger planes here," Walkup said.

Parked at Martinsburg now are six commercial passenger jets in temporary storage while awaiting flights to maintenance facilities, Walkup said.

The airport receives $1,000 per month in storage fees for all six planes, Walkup said.

Overall, according to Byrd's release, the upgrades, currently under construction, will cost more than $220 million. Once the C-5s arrive, employment at the base is predicted to increase from 1,200, including 325 full-time employees, to 1,400, including 500 who will be full time.

So far, more than $97 million has been appropriated for airport construction, according to the release.

The base is expected to receive 10 C-5s to replace its 12 C-130 cargo planes. Several C-130s already have been redeployed.

The C-5s are expected to arrive in late summer 2007, Wachtel said.

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