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Schumer pushing for New York air base improvements

By RICK PFEIFFER | Niagara Gazette | Published: January 5, 2021

WASHINGTON D.C. (Tribune News Service) — U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer announced Monday that the recently approved 2020 end-of-year omnibus spending legislation, approved just before Christmas, includes a provision that calls on the secretary of the Air Force to prioritize repair projects including an extension of a taxiway at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station (NFARS).

Schumer called the expansion at NFARS "critical to the (Air Reserve's) refueling capability. The senate minority leader said recent aircraft conversions and insufficient taxiway length have limited takeoff capacity and increased weather restrictions at the air base, reducing the readiness of the units stationed there.

"The Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station is a critical asset to the Air Force Reserve and to the Western New York economic region," Schumer said. "The service members stationed there need the right infrastructure to conduct their world-class missions."

The repairs provision is part of the 2021 military construction budget.

Schumer said increased activity at the reserve air station would boost the entire Western New York economy, which has suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Making sure the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station is clear for takeoff is essential for the Air Force Reserve's rapid global mobility mission and the smooth functioning of the state's economy," Schumer said.

Recently, Schumer said he fought to prevent President Trump from redirecting funding meant for the Niagara Falls base to construction of the Southern border wall. The senator was also active in the effort to bring the KC-135 tanker fleet back to the air station after the departure of its C-130 mission.

Units stationed at the Niagara Falls base had been flying aging C-130 tactical airlifters. But the Air Force upgraded NFARS's mission to the KC-135 aircraft after efforts by Schumer and others to secure funding for a new training facility.

Schumer said he will also continue to push for nearly $50 million worth of improvements at the base, including upgrades to the main security gate, expansion of the existing runway to better accommodate the new KC-135s and to create new state-of-the-art facilities for civil engineering and the Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron.

(c) 2021 the Niagara Gazette (Niagara Falls, N.Y.)
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