Thursday, April 11, 2013
People from Wichita and the surrounding area are showing their support for McConnell Air Force Base as the U.S. Air Force's process of deciding where the next generation refueling tankers moves ahead.
More than 100 people attended an open house Thursday evening to provide comments as the Air Force begins the environmental study phase of its tanker base selection process.
"Hopefully they can pick the city of Wichita and McConnell Air Force Base to add those new tankers to," Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer said.
Brewer said McConnell has a $619 million dollar annual economic impact in the 50 miles surrounding the base. That is just one of the reasons he said it is vital McConnell land one of the missions of the KC-46A tanker, the air refueling tanker slated to replace the KC-135.
McConnell is a finalist to be either the First Main Operating Base or the Formal Training Unit for the KC-46A. McConnell is the only Air Force Base named a finalist in both categories. However, no base will receive both missions.
Brewer said McConnell should have an edge in the selection.
"It meets all the requirements," he said. "It has the community support, logistics. Everything that you can possibly imagine is there at McConnell Air Force Base."
Before the Air Force decides next April whether McConnell will get the new tankers, it is asking the public about any environmental concerns. That was the purpose of Thursday's meeting at WSU's Hughes MetroPlex.
"They (the Air Force) want to hear about noise, impacts on cultural resources, endangered species, wetlands, air quality, hazardous waste," said Jean Reynolds, a U.S. Air Force Community Planner involved in the environmental impact study.
The meeting also discussed community impact and some in attendance said the Air force should look at how many people remain near McConnell after they retire.
"When they get here, they find out what a wonderful place it is and many of them do come back to retire," said Keith Lesher.
Airmen now stationed at McConnell said they feel that community support and they are as eager as everybody else to see where the new tankers go.
"We're in the same boat, in essence that the public is," Lt. Col. Steve Matthews said. "We're standing by for a final decision."
Public comments will be accepted until May 17. To comment online or to download a mail-in comment form, click here.