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Fairchild Loses First Round In Competition For Tankers


People living near Fairchild Air Force Base say they’re not worried by news they won’t get a brand new fleet of Boeing-built Air Force refueling tankers. The Air Force made the announcement Wednesday following a process that pitted Spokane against other other communities around the country.

McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas got the nod to be the first to house the new KC-46A refueling tankers. That dismayed Washington Sen. Patty Murray, who said she would press top Pentagon officials for an explanation.

But just beyond Fairchild's perimeter, people in the town of Airway Heights don't see it as a make-or-break decision.

“It would have been nice because it would have brought more military to the area," says Keisa Bowes, who has family ties to the base. "But Fairchild's got a pretty good hold on what they do – with survival training and the tankers they do have.”

Across the street at the Crosspointe Autoplex, Scott Kinsey often sells four-wheel drive cars and trucks airmen new to the area. He says, “I just hope that if they don't get the refueling situation, something else comes up.”

Governor Jay Inslee says he is "disappointed" by the decision, but insists this is not the end of the story. Fairchild will have another shot at the next round of tankers.

“There will be a second, third and fourth round of further basing of a portion of these tankers," Inslee says. "And there’s no reason Fairchild should not be superbly qualified to be in those next rounds.”

Kansas would get the first 36 tankers to roll off the Boeing assembly line in Everett. The Air Force has ordered a total of 179 tankers through 2028.

Inslee also notes that Fairchild Air Base is well positioned geographically as the Asia-Pacific theater becomes more of a national security focus.

On the Web:

KC-46A sites announced - US Air Force

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."