Fairchild loses bid to house new Air Force tanker

May 22, 2013

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Spokane’s Fairchild Air Force Base has lost out on a bid to be the first to house the Air Force's newest refueling tanker aircraft. 

While Spokane and Washington state leaders have spent the last few years touting Fairchild Air Force Base as the leading contender to take the first new Boeing KC 46A tanker planes, the Pentagon Wednesday decided that McConnell Air Force base in Wichita, Kansas is its choice. McConnell will receive the first batch of 36 planes in 2016. 

Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rogers, R-Wash., said she spoke with the secretary of the Air Force, who told her Fairchild will still be in the running for in the next round of KC-46A assignments.

“Whenever I talk to leaders in our military, they speak very highly of Fairchild, and they have wanted to assure me that it is just a matter of time before Fairchild gets these new tankers,” she said.

Greater Spokane Inc. worked to promote Fairchild on its strengths, including the fact it is the closest tanker base to the Pacific Rim with more than $400 million spent on improving the base infrastructure over the last several decades. 

Rich Hadley, who works for Greater Spokane Inc., says frankly, he is now worried about the base’s future, because even if Fairchild does eventually get assigned the new planes, that may be as long as 8 years down the road.

“Because the military installation supply exceeds the need by amount 30 percent just in the Air Force, I’m dramatically concerned a new base closure process would occur before we see a new mission here, and that means were at risk,” he said.

Fairchild is the largest employer in Spokane County.