The new commander at Fairchild Air Force Base wants to expand military partnerships with Air National Guard units and, with any luck, revive the popular SkyFest air show next year.
Col. Brian Newberry, starting his second week in charge of the 92nd Air Refueling Wing, said Monday he’ll be assembling a full list of goals for the next two years after he’s had a chance to review base operations and the challenges of supporting round-the-clock homeland defense missions here and combat refueling missions overseas.
But two items already have made their way to the short list: finding a way to revive SkyFest and looking to build on the success and efficiency of sharing Air Force and Air National Guard equipment and resources.
Newberry said SkyFest remains vulnerable to budget pressures but he hopes to find a way to bring the community air show back next year. “We’re going to press ahead,” he said. He noted he has directed initial planning for the show to get started but cautioned a final decision will have to await resolution of various budget issues. The base last hosted the previously annual summer air show in 2010.
The colonel also wants to explore greater partnerships with the Air National Guard.
Fairchild is the only base where Air Force and Air National Guard crews share KC-135 refueling tankers, which Newberry said has forged strong and effective working relationships between the crews. “I want to work with our Guard partners … to see where else we can fuse together,” he said.
Fairchild tankers provide aerial refueling over much of the Western United States, giving aircraft flying homeland defense missions greater range and time aloft. The base’s tankers, operating from an airport in Kyrgyzstan, also provide much of the aerial refueling over Afghanistan, extending the amount of time combat aircraft can remain over battlefields in support of U.S. ground troops.
“We’re about fueling the fight,” Newberry said. “We’re about fueling freedom.”
The base, located on the West Plains, employs about 5,700 people, including civilian workers. Last year, according to a study by an Avista Utilities economist, Fairchild spending contributed about $793 million into the Spokane-area economy.