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Public hearing on McConnell, new tankers is Tuesday

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013, at 1:26 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, at 10:24 a.m.

In one of the final steps needed to land a new fleet of refueling tankers, the U.S. Air Force on Tuesday will host a hearing to gauge public support for McConnell Air Force Base.

The hearing will be 5 to 8 p.m. at the Hughes Metropolitan Complex, Room 180, on the Wichita State University campus, near 29th and Oliver.

The Air Force in May named McConnell as the preferred site for 36 KC-46A tankers out of an initial 56 tankers to be sited beginning in 2016. McConnell is already the world’s largest tanker base with 62 KC-135s. More than 300 showed up at a similar public hearing in April.

One of the final steps in the siting process is the environmental impact study to make sure the base can accommodate the new aircraft. The results of the hearing will be included in the final 500-page draft impact study.

The government is expected to spend $219 million on new infrastructure at the base, including new hangers for the KC-46As.

Wayne Roberts, chairman of the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Tanker Task Force and the Joint Military Affairs Committee, said he hasn’t heard of any issues, and would like people to come out and voice their support for the aircraft.

“We’re on third base and we’re trying to get to home plate,” Roberts said.

The awarding of the tankers to McConnell becomes official when it is published in the Federal Register. That was expected to happen in March 2014, but with the government shutdown in October, the process has been delayed and the decision now isn’t expected to be announced until May.

To look at the draft environmental impact study, go to www.kc-46a-beddown.com.

More tankers will be built in future years with further rounds of base assignments.

Keeping McConnell active is important because the base contributes $619 million to the local economy, according to Wichita and chamber officials.

Reach Dan Voorhis at 316-268-6577 or dvoorhis@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @danvoorhis.

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