Almost three years after work on $267 million in new construction projects started at McConnell Air Force Base in preparation for the KC-46A Pegasus air refueling tanker, it’s nearly complete.
And it should all be done well before the first new Boeing tanker is wheels down at McConnell, the first base to receive the new Boeing tankers that will replace a nearly 60-year-old fleet of KC-135 aircraft.
Hundreds of McConnell airmen, a pair of generals and politicians on Monday celebrated the wrap up of work at the southeast Wichita base, which is home to 3,000 airmen and employs 300 civilians.
“This is pretty awesome,” Col. Josh Olson, commander of McConnell’s 22nd Air Refueling Wing.
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The projects met their deadlines and expected costs, officials noted.
“Ahead of requirements and within budget. It doesn’t get better than that,” said James Hearn, director of regional business for the Army Corps of Engineers.
The centerpiece of the work is three new hangars, the largest of which — a three-bay hangar at 174,000 square feet — served as the site for Monday’s completion ceremony. The other two are a 69,000-square-foot single bay hangar, and a 146,000-square-foot two bay hangar. McConnell said the hangars used $25 million in steel produced in Kansas.
The hangars were among 16 construction projects on and off McConnell’s flight line required to support the new tankers.
Not all of them were 100 percent done on Monday, Brig. Gen Steven Bleymaier of the Air Mobility Command noted in his speech.
Work on a composite maintenance shop should be completed by the end of October, said Lt. Haley Renner of McConnell’s KC-46 Program and Integration Office.
Work is also under way on widening and improving the shoulders of Taxiway D, Renner said, and is expected to be completed by the end of this year or in early 2018.
Under those schedules, the projects will be completely finished before McConnell’s first KC-46 arrives.
The first KC-46 delivery to the Air Force is expected in spring 2018, an Air Force spokeswoman said Monday.
The first KC-46 was set to be delivered in March but was delayed after Boeing discovered changes it had to make to the first 18 airplanes’ centerline drogue and wing-aerial refueling pod systems. The KC-46 is based off of Boeing’s 767 commercial passenger jet. Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita manufactures the airplane’s forward fuselage section, pylons, engine cowlings and wing leading edge.
Other construction projects that have been completed include new concrete pavement on the ramp and new building construction and expansion off the flight line, Renner said.
Among the new buildings constructed were a regional maintenance training facility, which will serve as a site to train Air Force mechanics from other bases on maintaining the KC-46. A dormitory with capacity for 48 people was built to house those students, Renner said.
Another building was constructed to house an entire KC-46 fuselage, from nose to tail. That building will be used by a variety of Air Force personnel to train on the aircraft’s fuselage, including aircraft maintainers and base firefighters, Renner said.
About 285 people worked on the KC-46 construction projects at McConnell this summer.
Some of them came from local companies supporting the construction projects as subcontractors, including Snodgrass & Sons Construction Co., CMC Concrete Materials and Bradburn Demolition.
Atlanta-based Archer Western was the general contractor on the KC-46 projects.
According to McConnell’s most recent information, an estimated $575 million went into the local economy in fiscal year 2015. That included money spent by out-of-town construction workers at hotels and restaurants as well as for construction materials.