Fairchild Air Force Base is one of two leading sites under consideration to become the temporary base for up to 500 additional military personnel and a number of aircraft when major reconstruction work begins in May on the main runway at Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota.
Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base, near St. Louis, Mo., will make the final decision on where and when to relocate Grand Forks personnel and KC-135 aircraft while the estimated six-month-long, $27.5 million reconstruction project takes place, says Capt. Michael Meridith, the North Dakota basess spokesman. He declines to say whether personnel will be deployed to only one or more bases. He says considerable research has gone into a plan that could move Grand Forks personnel and aircraft to Hector International Airport, at Fargo, N.D., home of the Air National Guards 119th Fighter Wing.
Grand Forks is the home base for 51 KC-135 tankers, whose principal mission is air refueling, though not all of those planes will be relocated, says Meridith. Some are active elsewhere and some are grounded while undergoing repairs.
Fairchilds consideration as a deployment site is based on its having a good deal of experience with KC-135 aircraft through its 92nd Air Refueling Wing, says Meridith. Fairchilds 92nd Wing now is the home base for 41 such planes, says 1st Lt. Tiffany Payette, Fairchilds spokeswoman.
Randy Barcus, chief economist at Avista Corp., of Spokane, who also teaches economics classes at Fairchild, says an influx of personnel from Grand Forks would have a substantial economic impact on the Spokane area. If 400 of them were relocated to the Spokane base and they stayed in area hotels, federal per diem expenditures for lodging and food over the anticipated six-month period would amount to $5 million to $7 million, Barcus estimates. Additional out-of-pocket spending could push the economic impact to $10 million, he says.
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