The United States Air Force is trying to decide where to send a new squadron of C-17 aircrafts, and the 911th Airlift Wing at the Pittsburgh International Airport is one of the bases being considered for the move.
The C-17s are large cargo jets, which would replace the smaller, propeller-driven C-130s currently at the base.
Pittsburgh-area community members and elected officials are working to prove that Pittsburgh’s base is worthy of the responsibility.
U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pennsylvania) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania) sent a letter detailing the financial and strategic benefits of Pittsburgh’s base to Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James.
Murphy said the 911th Airlift Wing would welcome the additional airmen.
“It’s part of the community, we want them to know we’re supportive of that. So we’re pulling out all the stops to send that message, once again, to the Air Force. We want the Air force here, we love them and we’re willing to show that support to get them to move the new planes here,” said Murphy.
Bringing the jets here would also bring more people to the region, as well as opportunities for the surrounding small businesses. Murphy said the financial benefit would be in the, "Tens of millions of dollars in terms of goods and services," from fuel to shopping. It would also keep the workforce in the western airport suburbs, he said.
The Air Force has considered closing the 911th in the past, but Murphy said the surrounding community came together to support keeping the base open.
Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Mike Stack sent a letter, similar to Murphy’s, to Lt. Gen. James Jackson, Chief of the U.S. Air Force Reserves. In his letter, Stack said he had visited the base over the past year and is not surprised that the 911th was named the Top Air Force Reserve Base in 2015. In order to get chosen, Stack said Pittsburgh needs to brag about its base.
“The key is the squeaky wheel gets the oil and we in Pennsylvania sort of have this tradition where we feel like sometimes our track record should be good enough for people to know to come here, but sometimes I think we have to speak up and talk about how great we are,” he said.
State Sen. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Allegheny), whose district includes the base, said it makes economic sense for the Air Force to relocate the C-17s to the 911th Airlift Wing. Since the base co-exists with the airport and shares space, it would only cost $20,000 a year to house the new planes. He said there are other benefits.
“You’ve got customs and homeland security already there, you’ve got emergency services that are already in place, plus you’ve got integrated military and civilian flight plans, you’ve got existing airspace that’s already there for tactical formation and airdrop procedures and you’ve got areas for landing zone operations,” he said.
Stack said there is no specific deadline for the decision.