Hundreds turn up to tell Air Force McConnell is the place for tanker program

McConnell Air Force Base slated to receive millions of dollars for upgrades

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WICHITA, Kansas — An information session was held Thursday night for people interested in learning about the Air Force’s new KC-46A.

Right now, the tanker is just on paper, but the Air Force is working ahead visiting the communities of the bases it could eventually call home.

“It’s our community, we have a vested interest these are our people, this is our security, this is our future so we should be behind it,” says Jim Fonzo.

He along with dozens of city leaders and residents from Wichita and surrounding communities found themselves at what the Air Force calls a scoping meeting, to give the public a chance to review the KC-46A that could call McConnell home.

“The KC-46 is the Air Force’s number one priority. We’re flying tankers that are from the Eisenhower administration and it’s just very important to America’s defense posture,” says the Air Force’s community planner Jean Reynolds.

There are three candidates besides McConnell.

Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma, Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington state and Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota.

Each community will have a meeting similar to this one for the public to voice their concerns and support of the impending change.

“Aircraft noise, water quality, hazardous waste use, impact to historic buildings, endangered species and wetlands. Those are some of the things that we look at,” explains Reynolds.

McConnell tanker pilots on hand to answer any and all questions from supportive citizens who want the new KC-46A to call Wichita home.

“Anytime we get the opportunity to fly a new airplane we’re excited about it again we’re ready to execute the mission with whatever aircraft we fly,” says Major Craig Lauderdale of McConnell Air Force Base.

Whether civilian, military, veteran or supportive citizen, the good turnout is a good sign of support.

“You see a lot of support at other bases, but I can tell you from firsthand experience, working with the chamber of commerce in Wichita and the personnel down in Derby I’ve never seen anything like it, they’re really engaged, at every event we have on base the folks are out and they come to see our airmen,” says Major Lauderdale.

“I just want to see the presence stay in Wichita, it’s really economic for the Sedgwick County area,” says Ronald Woll.

Thursday night’s session was the first step in a long process.

The Air Force will use the information from these sessions to develop an environmental impact statement for the new KC-46A along with selecting the aircraft’s main operating base and formal training unit.



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