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Sunday, August 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Air Force bombers making temporary return to Grant County

Looking like an ungainly bird of prey, this B-52 prepares for takeoff at Fairchild Air Force Base on May 23, 1994. (ANDERSON / SR)
Looking like an ungainly bird of prey, this B-52 prepares for takeoff at Fairchild Air Force Base on May 23, 1994. (ANDERSON / SR)
By Charles H. Featherstone Columbia Basin Herald

MOSES LAKE – U.S. Air Force B-52 bombers are coming back to Moses Lake in May.

At least for a few days.

According to Rich Mueller, director of the Grant County International Airport (GCIA), as many as four of the 60-year-old bombers will be arriving in the Columbia Basin from Minot Air Force Base in Minot, North Dakota, for a week of training exercises from May 14-16.

Mueller said that Air Force personnel will arrive a week early to prepare the GCIA field.

“They’ll take a week to ramp up,” Mueller said. “This is only a training exercise.”

Minot, home to the Air Force’s 5th Bomb Wing, is one of only two U.S. Air Force bases to host the B-52H Stratofortress bomber, the final production version of the venerable aircraft which first flew in 1952 and was first deployed in 1955.

Originally constructed by the U.S. Air Force as Larson Air Force Base in the late 1940s, the airbase in Moses Lake was home primarily to fighter jets that were given the job of defending the Grand Coulee Dam and the Hanford Works from attack by the Soviet Union. However, in 1960, Larson become a Strategic Air Command base hosting long-range B-52 bombers and KC-135 tankers until its closure in 1966.

Mueller said the Port of Moses Lake will have to remove some of the side runway taxi lights, which were added for civilian use, in order to accommodate the B-52’s wide wingspan and landing gear near the wingtips.

The Port of Moses Lake regularly hosts U.S. – and sometimes allied – military forces on training missions, one way the Port earns revenue to stay in business. Most recently, soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment were at the Port for training in special combat operations.

According to Mueller, because of that recent training exercise, around $250,000 found its way into the local economy, mostly in the form of hotel rooms and meals.

“We appreciate the community support,” Mueller said of the recent military training exercises. “It was loud, it was late, but we only had one noise complaint.”

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