By Linda Dillman
Rickenbacker Air National Guard Station is back on a list of five installations under consideration to home to a squadron of a dozen KC-46A refueling tankers.
The base is now awaiting word later this year of the outcome of a final environmental impact analysis.
The squadron brings with it new construction and/or renovated infrastructure and active duty personnel in advance of the aircraft’s scheduled arrival in 2018. Existing KC-135 at the selected location would either be relocated and/or retired out of the U.S. Air Force inventory.
No new or modified airspace is required to support training in the KC-46A. Acreage within the noise contour would decrease by 99 acres and the number of military airfield operations would decrease by 48 percent from the current program. Present land use and zoning designations would not change due to the aircraft.
While the Air Force identified Pease ANGS in New Hampshire as the preferred alternative for the KC-46A based on an operational analysis, site surveys and military judgment factors, all five bases, including Rickenbacker, Forbes, McGuire-Dix and Pittsburgh, are still in the running.
Public involvement is part of the process in implementing the aircraft conversion and public hearings are scheduled throughout the country, including one held Feb. 27 at the Rickenbacker International Airport Terminal to present a draft report of the findings and discuss any concerns.
“It’s very important to our community,” said Canal Winchester Mayor Mike Ebert. “People out here (stationed at or working on RANGS) live on our community. I’d hate to see anything out here lost. FedEx and other carriers, this passenger terminal and the guard all feed off of each other.”
Victor Wilson, Ohio National Guard Association legislative chairman, said Rickenbacker has the two longest runways in the Midwest and was an alternate landing site for NASA’s shuttle program. As part of a cooperative agreement, the Ohio National Guard rents three large hangers, ramps and the runway for $1 a year from the port authority.
Wilson said, if Rickenbacker was selected, approximately 300 active duty members would be transferred to the area in support of the 12 KC-46A. He noted Rickenbacker is a joint guard and reserve base without base housing, so active duty personnel would bring families to local communities and children to local schools.
“We’re environmentally ready. We’re community ready,” Wilson said.
Michael Hartley, vice president of government relations with the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, said when the KC-46A mission was presented, there was full support of the community and elected officials at the local, state and federal levels.
“This community is committed,” Hartley said. “We know of no environmental obstacles preventing the location of the KC’s. I fully believe we can serve this mission well. I believe Eddie Rickenbacker would be pleased and feel it’s appropriate for the KC’s to be located here.”
Following a 45-day public comment period, which ends March 24, a final environmental impact statement will be prepared for review and then made available to the public for 30 days. Once the final selection is made, the proposed tanker beddown could begin as early as this year, with construction starting in 2015.
Written statements are accepted until the end of the comment period and can be submitted by email to email@example.com. Put “KC-46A Beddown EIS” in the subject line. All comments must include a name and physical address.