NIAGARA FALLS – Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer traveled to the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station on Monday to try to jump-start the push to get the military to put a flight simulator into the building it built for one here.
Eight months after officials cut the ribbon on a new $5.2 million simulator building, Schumer came to the base to say that the push for a simulator to fill the building continues.
"Niagara Falls is the perfect Northeast location for training personnel," said Schumer, D-N.Y. "We want this to become the center for training pilots from around the country."
The simulator facility was built to train pilots for the C-130 cargo aircraft that units at the base flew for years.
But with the Air Force cutting back on cargo aircraft, local officials and the congressional delegation pressed last year to return KC-135 fueling tankers to the region's air base.
They were successful in that effort.
And even though the simulator facility was built to accommodate a simulator for cargo planes, Schumer said it's important now to get a KC-135 simulator placed in the building.
Schumer said the Air Force has two KC-135 simulators build and ready to be located.
Pressed on why the Air Force had not yet decided on locations for the simulators, Schumer said: "It takes a long time with the military. They are rather slow with a lot of issues."
Schumer and John Cooper, who heads the Niagara Military Affairs Council – which lobbies for the base – both said that the location of a simulator in Niagara Falls could solidify the local Air Force base for years to come.
The base suffered near-death experiences when base closure commissions considered shuttering the facility in 1995 and again in 2005, but both Schumer and Cooper said the base is better positioned for the future now than it was then.
"The change to a tanker mission was a very positive step for this institution," Cooper said.
The 11,250-square-foot simulator facility will be able to host 450 students a year for training while creating 18 full-time jobs, Col. Brian Bowman, 914th Airlift Wing commander, said last summer.
The warehouse-like space will have to be expanded to accommodate the larger KC-135 simulator, Bowman said at the time.
Funding for that expansion could be included in the $25 million in transition costs set aside for transitioning the base to the tanker mission.
Schumer said it's probably only a matter of time before the Air Force decides to move the simulator to the facility built for one at the Niagara base.
"Every single thing we've fought for for NFARS, we've gotten," he noted.
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