- SPOKANE, Wash. -
- Fairchild Air Force Base is continuing to explore the possibility of housing new KC-46A tankers, despite the Air Force announcing today those tankers will be going elsewhere.
Thursday, the Air Force announced those tankers will be going to bases in California and New Jersey. But, that doesn't mean this is over for Fairchild. The Air Force has one year to make sure its chosen bases can accommodate these new tankers, including the environmental impact. If they don't meet the requirements, Fairchild could have another shot.
Still today's decision was disappointing for many. "We're disappointed and think the Air Force was somewhat shortsighted in how they looked at Fairchild," said Todd Mielke, CEO of Greater Spokane Incorporated.
GSI says Thursday's decision was made after changes in the selection criteria. Originally the Air Force limited its search to bases that could accommodate 36 aircraft, but it later expanded to bases that could accommodate 24 or more aircraft.
But since this isn't case closed, Fairchild asked members of the public to provide their opinion at an environment impact scoping meeting Thursday night.
"This process is going to continue regardless of the announcement that was made today, and it gives the public an opportunity to come out and provide input," said Capt. David Liapis with the 92nd Air Refueling Wing.
Royce Cuneo, who attended the evening's meeting to show support for Fairchild. "I think it's a good cause for the tankers to come to Spokane," he said. "It will provide employment and I'm all for it."
But, not everyone who attended the night's meeting was in support of the air force base.
"I oppose this aircraft coming to the base because it will just perpetuate the life of our dependence as a community on war and defense spending," said David Brookbank.
The base says it will continue to look into the feasibility of houseing new KC-46A tankers. But, even if Fairchild AFB is never chosen, it is well positioned to increase its fleet of KC-135 tankers.
"That would bring another 500-1000 airmen, plus spouses and dependents, plus additional military construction to accomodate that additional aircraft and staff," said Mielke. It would also make Fairchild AFB the largest tanker base in the western United States.
Sen. Patty Murray and Mayor David Condon both released statements expressing their disappointment in Thursday's announcement by the Air Force. They say they will continue to support Fairchild and its place in our community.