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Spin Control

Posts tagged: Fairchild Air Force Base

It’s really official: Fairchild not getting first new tankers

Anyone holding out hope that the first cohort of new air-refueling tankers would be located at Fairchild Air Force Base can give it up. Pegasus won’t be landing on the West Plains any time soon.

The Air Force confirmed Wednesday the first new KC-46As will go into regular service at McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas. McConnell was named the Air Force’s preferred choice for the first operational KC-46A tanker unit last May, with Fairchild as its backup.

But McConnell had to get through an environmental impact study with no unexpected barriers. On Wednesday the Pentagon said it completed studies for McConnell and Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma, which will be the new training base. Both passed. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Read full statement from Air Force official on casino and Fairchild

Last night's revelation that an assistant secretary of the Air Force believed the proposed casino from the Spokane Tribe of Indians would create “insignificant disruption” to Fairchild puts a major damper on the efforts of the project's opponents to label the casino a threat to Fairchild.

Below is the full email from former Assistant Secretary of the Air Force Terry Yonkers that Council President Ben Stuckart read at last night's meeting:

 

Mr. Stuckart,

In the essence of timeliness, I’ve decided to respond to your gracious request by email.  I’m disappointed I will be unable to make these remarks, in person, during your Council meeting 24 Feb. 2014.

Encroachment as a political pawn?

Alarm over potential Fairchild encroachment is being sounded so often and by so many and over so much these days that it's at risk of becoming a bad Spokane punch line.

Don't like the new paint job on your neighbor's house? Argue that it creates too much of a distraction for Air Force pilots trying to find the Fairchild runway.

Looking for a sure-fire way to either stop or support Spokane's efforts to crack down on all those R-rated bikini barista stands? Suggest that the position opposite of yours puts the future of Fairchild in peril but that base officials have been instructed by the Pentagon to keep mum and stay out of local politics.

The real reason it's taking so long to get the North Spokane Freeway built? No one has figured out yet how to link its rapid completion to possibly helping keep Fairchild off the BRAC closure list.

To be sure, Fairchild is a critical piece of Spokane's economy and no one questions taking all reasonable steps to keep the base viable.

But with the dizzying number of times the encroachment issue is getting raised these days by groups at odds with each other over one project or another, it's getting tougher to discern reasonable from opportunistic. Casinos. Municipal zoning. Trailer parks. Industrial expansion. Gravel pits.

The latest salvo came yesterday, when Gov. Jay Inslee openly questioned why Spokane County commissioners are creating new encroachment risks with a controversial industrial expansion while at the same time trying to persuade voters to increase taxes to pay for alleviating a separate risk. Inslee has joined others in trying to get the expansion overturned.

Commissioners suggest Inslee's concern is misguided and are hoping to meet with him to iron things out. But that sounds a lot like the kind of response commissioners tend to get from backers of proposals that they're trying to block by raising the specter of encroachment.

Regardless of where anyone might stand on any of the various proposals, the real risk right now seems to be political fatigue.

McMorris Rodgers, Spokane Tribe casino statements

As reported in this morning's paper, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers formally came out against a proposed West Plains casino as “encroachment” on Fairchild Air Force Base and the Spokane Tribe, which is planning the development, reiterated that it is no such thing.

Want to read more about it?

McMorris Rodgers' letter to the Bureau of Indian Affairs is below.

The statement of Spokane Tribal Chairman Rudy Peone can be found inside the blog.


Documents:

Spokane County loss on land deal finalized

Spokane County’s loss of more than $1 million in a land deal with the Spokane International Airport was completed Monday by the Spokane City Council.

In 2008, the county paid $3.2 million for nearly 400 acres between the airport and Fairchild Air Force Base to relocate a rail line that crossed the base and protect the base from encroaching development. County commissioners agreed to sell the land to the airport late last month for $1.75 million.

The Spokane City Council, which along with the Spokane County Commission must approve major airport financial decisions, unanimously approved the deal on Monday. The airport’s ownership is shared by the city and county.

Tribe: McMorris Rodgers ‘misinformed’ about casino process

U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers seems “misinformed” in her recent request to delay a government recommendation on the proposed Spokane tribal casino on the West Plains, the tribal chairman told a federal agency this week.

But the tribe won’t object to the requested 45-day delay, if the department doesn’t allow future attempts to delay the process “for reasons beyond meaningful justification.”

In a letter to a top Interior Department official, Tribal Council Chairman Rudy Peone said the reasons McMorris Rodgers listed in last week’s request for a delay don’t match the facts of the long process of studying the project . . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, go inside the blog.

Fairchild on short list for new tankers

Fairchild Air Force Base is one of several bases on a short list for receiving the nation's newest air refueling tanker.

Senate sources confirmed the West Plains base is on a list of possible locations for the first KC-46A refueling jets when they roll off the Boeing assembly lines later this decade. Air Force officials briefed members of Congress this afternoon on this and other plans for their bases.
 
Fairchild, along with Air Force bases in Kansas, North Dakota and Oklahoma are on a list to be “main operating base 1” which would be the first new home for replacements to the KC-135 tanker, which has been a mainstay of the Air Force refueling fleet since the 1950s. That would mean as many as 36 KC-46As would be assigned to the base, and the older tankers would be reassigned or retired.
 
The preferred location and “reasonable alternatives” for base 1 is scheduled to be announced this spring and the final decision is expected in spring 2014.
 
The listing of Fairchild brought cheers from members of the Washington delegation heavily involved in pushing for the base.  
Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, along with Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, jointly announced Fairchild's inclusion on the list, noting they  had sent letters in 2011 and 2012 to U.S. Air Force Secretary Michael Donley, highlighting the benefits to basing the tankers in Spokane… 
 
To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog

WA Delegation to Air Force: Put new tankers at Fairchild

Washington's congressional delegation is a diverse group that doesn't agree on much, whether it's who's waging a “war on women” or what's the right policy on taxes, budget cuts, health care reform or immigration.

But they managed to rally around one favorite topic this morning: Putting the first new KC-46A tankers at Fairchild Air Force Base.

OK, so it's kind of a no-brainer that planes assembled in the state at a Boeing plant would stay in the state at Fairchild. Still, all nine representatives and both senators signed on to a letter today to Air Force Secretary Mike Donley and various generals that Fairchild would be a really great spot for the first '46As because it has both Active Duty and Air National Guard units that fly tankers, an improved runway, and is close to the Asia-Pacific theater. That plus the federal government has spent about $400 million on a wide range of improvements over the last few decades. (Stuff that we assume the secretary and the generals already know, but hey, they're busy guys so it probably doesn't hurt to remind them.)

A copy of the full letter is inside the blog.

Air Force sets standards for new tanker base

The Air Force released the criteria today for deciding which of its bases will get the first new air refueling tankers, and Fairchild will be among about 60 bases being considered.

That means the Air Force won't limit those first KC-46As to a base that already serves as a current home for tankers, but will look at most facilities in the continental United States. The main criteria for making this first list for consideration?

“A runway,” a spokeswoman for the officer of the Secretary of the Air Force said after a short description of the criteria was released. That's essentially all bases with airplanes, although not every Air Force base has planes, Ann Stefanek said.

From that most basic of necessities for a jet patterned after the Boeing 767 commercial airliner, the Air Force will consider other important details, such as the capacity of the fueling system, available space on the runway, size of hangars, proximity to planes needing to be refueled, airspace availability, environmental considerations and costs.

The Air Force expects to have scores for all the potential bases sometime this summer, Stefanek said, and narrow the list further to a small group of top scorers from which the preferred site and reasonable alternatives will be chosen late this year.

The Air Force began briefing members of Congress and posted the criteria briefly on its website this afternoon. It later removed the criteria, even though it kept a link with a picture of a prototype of the new tanker refueling a cargo plane that promised information about the criteria.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, said she believes the criteria puts Fairchild Air Force Base in a ” very competitive position” to be an early home for the new planes, which will be built in Everett: “I'm confident that Fairchild's long tanker history, strong community support and joint operations between the Active Duty and Guard place it in an ideal position to succeed.”

The West Plains base has a new runway and a new wing headquarters under construction, Murray said in an e-mail. A letter from the state's congressional delegation to Air Force leaders on how the base stacks up to the criteria could be sent as soon as Tuesday.

To read the Air Force announcement of criteria for the first two new tanker bases, and the tanker “formal training unit, click here to go inside the blog.

Thunderbirds at Fairchild next July

The Air Force’s top aerial act, the Thunderbirds, will perform at Fairchild Air Force Base next July.

Fairchild announced today the Thunderbirds put the Skyfest 2010 event on their schedule, which was released yesterday at a convention in Las Vegas.

Maj. Angela Oconnell, a base spokeswoman, said this may be the earliest an announcement of an upcoming Skyfest has ever been made.

“We found out and we thought we’d put it on everybody’s calendar,” Oconnell said late this morning. Skyfest will be July 24 and 25.



Air Force 1 overhead? Yes and no

Think you saw Air Force One flying low over the West Plains this afternoon? Well, you weren’t hallucinating.

One of two planes used by the president as Air Force One did land at Fairchild Air Force Base Thursday afternoon. It’s at the base for two days for an operations maintenance check after having depot maintenance elsewhere, Lt. Casey Osborne said.

Osborne said that was sort of like taking your car out for a spin after it’s had a tune up, to see if everything’s running properly.

The plane, an Air Force version of a 747-200, will be landing and taking off from Fairchild through Saturday, so you might see it overhead in the next two days.

President Obama is not on the plane, so technically it’s not Air Force One. The plane only carries that designation when the president is on it.

It’s basing at Fairchild has nothing to do with Obama’s trip to Bozeman, Mont., and Yellowstone National Park on Friday and Saturday, Osborne said.

Remain calm. Repeat: It’s only a drill

Spokane residents should not get too jumpy in the coming weeks as a couple of different groups run a couple of exercises here abouts.

Later this week, the U.S. Army Rangers will be conducting night time exercises at Fairchild Air Force Base. West Plains residents living nearby, and motorists driving by on Highway 2 or other byways, are likely to hear lots of low-flying aircraft — airplanes and helicopters — as well as gunfire. The ammunition isn’t live.

There won’t be anything to see, off-base, but it will be kind of noisy, from Thursday night through Monday night.

Then on Aug. 4, the Spokane Police Department will be holding a SWAT team demonstration involving a school bus, in a Riverfront Park parking lot north of the river off Washington Street. They’re hoping folks in the park and downtown workers don’t mistake it for the real thing.

AF: We like one tanker contract

Air Force officials told a Senate subcommittee they still don’t like the idea of “splitting the baby” on the new refueling tanker.

That’s not a surprise, because the Pentagon has been saying to anyone who will listen that they want to have one version of the replacement for the aging KC-135s. They want to take bids from Boeing and Lockheed/Grumman/EADS and do a winner take all. Problem is, certain members of Congress, particularly the head of a House military appropriations committee, don’t much want to listen.

Sen. Patty Murray — who is a big supporter of Boeing (it’s a mutual kind of thing) — wants just one contract, and took a Capitol Hill visit by Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Chief of Staff Norman Schwartz to get them to reiterate what they’ve been saying all along about a single contract.

They also got to repeat that they support a “fair and open” competition for the contract, which could be worth about $40 billion. This is hardly news, although it would be news if they would own up at some point to supporting a “rigged and secretive” competition, right?

So what about sending the new tankers — should they EVER get built — to Fairchild?

Answer inside the blog.

Coming Thursday: Murray grills AF?

Sen. Patty Murray will be asking questions of Air Force honchos about that pesky tanker replacement contract they have thus far been unable to run to ground.

Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Chief of Staff Gen. Norman Schwartz will appear before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee that controls their budget, and the Washington Democrat will take that opportunity to ask some of her favorite questions about replacement tankers, staff said.

Among them: Shouldn’t U.S. money for U.S. war planes go to U.S. companies when the U.S. is in the middle of a recession? And, where exactly are you going to put the first new planes that roll off the assembly line…a base that starts with “F” and ends with ”-airchild”?

Whether she’ll get definitive answers from Donley, Schwarts and company remains to be seen. Hearing starts at 7:30 a.m. Pacific, but is watchable on the subcommittee’s Web site.

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

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