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First plane's coming

November 16, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - The 167th Airlift Wing in Berkeley County will get its first C-5 aircraft next month, and base officials are preparing to hold a ceremony the second week of December to celebrate its arrival, officials said Wednesday.

The local West Virginia Air National Guard unit is switching its fleet from the C-130 to the massive C-5, one of the largest aircraft in the world.

The C-5 has a range of 6,320 nautical miles, and can take off or land in relatively short distances. Ground crews can load and unload the plane simultaneously at the front and rear cargo openings, military officials say.

The first C-5 is expected to arrive the first week of December, and will come from Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma, said Capt. Melissa Shade of the 167th Airlift Wing.

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The plane is part of an active duty fleet at Altus Air Force Base, and the Oklahoma facility will provide the first five C-5s to the 167th Airlift Wing, Shade said.

The 167th will have 10 C-5s, and the remaining five will come from an air reserve unit in Massachusetts, Shade said.

The 167th will receive its 10 C-5s gradually until 2008, Shade said.

To accommodate the C-5s, Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport, where the 167th Airlift Wing operates, is being upgraded and expanded. The project will mean a $235 million federal investment and involves extension of runways.

U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd on Wednesday said he had won Senate approval of $38.7 million for construction work at the Berkeley County airport.

The majority of the $38.7 million would go toward the work to extend the runways and taxiways, said Byrd, D-W.Va. Construction on that extension started earlier this month, and $20.5 million in funding will finish the runway work, Byrd said. Another $7.5 million will replace the fire station and rescue operations at the base, and $5.7 million would go toward new supply facilities, Byrd said.

Finally, $5 million would be used to construct a 19,000-square-foot avionics maintenance and repair facility for the C-5 fleet, Byrd said.

"For our West Virginia Air Guard to be ready, we must press forward with the major renovations and upgrades at the airport," Byrd said. "The old infrastructure has to go, and the expanded facilities must be completed. This funding would advance that work significantly and give the upgrades a major boost."

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