Local and military officials gathered last week for one final push to win a new KC-46A refueling wing at Rickenbacker airport.
A decision regarding a second Main Operating Base for the new generation of refueling aircraft is anticipated by mid-June; with the current round of public comments due in to U.S. Air Force officials by March 24, according to Victor Wilson, legislative co-chairman of the Ohio National Guard Association.
The Air Force and Air National Guard held a public meeting Feb. 27 to provide further information about getting a fleet of KC-46A aircraft assigned to Rickenbacker and to take public comments. About 30 people attended, including Canal Winchester Mayor Michael Ebert.
Ebert said bringing the new refueling wing to Rickenbacker could mean a few hundred more residents moving into the area.
"Canal Winchester and the other communities around Rickenbacker have a lot of current and retired guard members living here and we want to keep them," he said. "They're an important part of our communities. And we are a great community for these new guard members to move into, if we get the new planes."
Wilson acknowledged that Rickenbacker is "not currently the preferred site" for the refueling wing.
"That is the Pease Air National Guard Station in New Hampshire, but we're still on the short list," he said. "We have a lot of history here and a lot to offer, including two of the longest runways in the Midwest."
Col. James Jones, who has been the Rickenbacker wing commander for the past year, agreed. He said the current infrastructure in place at the airport should appeal to the Secretary of the Air Force, who will ultimately make the final decision.
"Beyond our long runways, we have great infrastructure already with our building complex and ramps," Jones said. "Rickenbacker Air National Guard has been in the refueling business for a very long time, including being the first unit with the KC-135 aircraft.
"Many of our current and retired members are your neighbors and community members, so your support is deeply appreciated because this is home to us all."
Public comments either in support of bringing the new refueling wing to Rickenbacker, or opposing it, are being accepted through March 24 and can be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by regular U.S. mail to KC-46A EIS Project Manager, MGB/A7AM, Shepperd Hall, 3501 Fetchet Ave., Joint Base Andrews, Md. 20762-5157.