WICHITA, Kansas – Some delays are keeping McConnell Air Force Base from getting some of the new KC-46A refueling tankers as expected.
On Monday, KSN heard from representatives at the Air Force Base who tell us the planes should start arriving by their 2017 deadline.
KSN spoke with Congressman Mike Pompeo to find out if this delay will negatively affect McConnell.
In 2014, the Air Force said the first KC-46A planes would reach McConnell by 2016.
That timeline has been pushed back but Congressman Mike Pompeo tells us he doesn’t see that delay costing the Air Force Base time or money.
“What we know is they’re committed to coming here. It means 25 years, a generation out of McConnell Air Force Base,” Pompeo said.
Thirty six new planes are set to arrive at McConnell in about a year.
McConnell Air Force Base competed heavily to be the first active-duty operating base for the new tanker.
“It’s exciting times,” Pompeo said. “We’ll have a lot of folks working on the state-of-the-art equipment and most importantly our soldiers and sailors around the world will have access to a modern tanker flown out of McConnell Air Force Base.”
KSN reached out to Air Force officials to find out why the tankers are delayed and was told in an email that the first test flight in September of 2015 marked the beginning of a testing process.
That process that must be completed before the first KC-46 delivery.
Another emailed statement from a McConnell representative said, “McConnell has been diligently preparing for the KC-46 while the aircraft has progressed through its development, and we will be fully ready for the first delivery.”
Pompeo says he has no doubt they’re ready.
“First flight is complete. A lot of the testing is now done. They’ve made a great deal of progress on getting the airplane close to where it can be certified and so I’m pretty confident that they will get that plane delivered to us in the middle of 2017,” he said.
We’re told by Air Force Officials that the delay will not affect the economic impact that the new planes bring to McConnell.
For now, the old KC-135 tankers will continue to be used until the new planes come in.
KSN wanted to take a closer look at what that economic impact is and we found out that back in 2014 when the deal was announced, then-mayor Carl Brewer said the KC-46s would provide stability and growth for Wichita.
Representative Pompeo says the Air Force has put a lot of time and effort into growing the program right here in south central Kansas.
“The Air Force has put a lot of money in out at McConnell to rebuild structures and hangers and runways and all of the infrastructure that goes with housing a new aircraft and so it’s good news for south central Kansas.”
Former mayor Brewer also said that the city values the $619.1 million economic impact McConnell has on the area.