BY TOM FONTAINE / Tribune Review
The Air Force is requesting $85 million to establish Moon’s 911th Airlift Wing as the home of a new C-17 squadron in a move that could add up to 200 local jobs and end uncertainty that has hovered over the base for decades.
The funding request is part of President Obama’s proposed $4.1 trillion budget for the fiscal year starting in October.
“It’s going to secure the future of the 911th. I don’t think we’ll be fighting BRAC again,” Charles Holsworth, chairman of the Military Affairs Council of Western Pennsylvania, said, referring to past proposals by the Base Closure and Realignment Commission to shut down the 911th.
The base is home to eight C-130s, which are used for ferrying troops and supplies between bases in combat zones.
Pending congressional approval of the Air Force’s request, the base would become home to eight C-17s, which are nearly twice as large and used to move troops and supplies between the United States and overseas bases.
“The 911th … is the ideal strategic location for basing C-17s,” said U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, who along with other members of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation lobbied the Air Force to put its new C-17 squadron in Moon.
The funding would help pay for construction of hangars, taxiways and ramps to accommodate the larger planes, along with a fuel hydrant system. The base would become home to the C-17s during the 2019 fiscal year, Casey said.
Air Force Reserve 2nd Lt. Jacob Morgan, a spokesman for the 911th, said, “The base is really excited. Everyone is talking in a more positive manner and looking forward to a new mission.”
Some of the base’s existing jobs wouldn’t carry over. For example, the C-17 does not require a navigator or flight engineer in its air crew, as the C-130 does, Morgan said. He could not say how many navigators and flight engineers are based at the 911th.
Holsworth predicted most would undergo retraining for other air crew positions or jobs at the base. Some might go to other C-130 bases, such as the Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Vienna, Ohio, he said.
Morgan said the larger, more technologically advanced C-17s would require more people to work in aircraft maintenance, representing most of the increased employment.
The 911th employs about 300 full-time military and civilian workers, along with about 1,200 reservists.
“This is a tremendous win for the Pittsburgh region and greater Western Pennsylvania,” said U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair.
U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, said the funding, if approved by Congress, “ensures that the 911th can continue its strategic airlift mission.”
The 911th’s lease at Pittsburgh International Airport expires in 2038, but Allegheny County Airport Authority offered to extend it to 2048 with another 10-year option, said spokesman Bob Kerlik. The deal would provide the base with another 25 acres. The military pays $20,000 a year to the authority.