New Tenn. Air Guard base to handle biggest plane

New Tenn. Air Guard base to handle biggest plane

Posted: Wednesday, July 9, 2008 7:39 pm
By: AP

MEMPHIS (AP) — The Tennessee Air National Guard soon will open a new $235 million base in Memphis that will handle the largest cargo planes the Air Force has. But high fuel costs are raising concerns about keeping those planes flying. The base is scheduled to open in September, and it will accommodate the Galaxy C-5 cargo plane, which can carry up to 270,000 pounds of cargo. The 118-acre base, which has been under construction since 2006, will be home for the 164th Airlift Wing, now headquartered at another, smaller site at Memphis International Airport. The new base, with three huge hangers costing a total of $80 million, will house C-5s and other cargo planes available for military supply missions around the world. Filling up a C-5’s fuel tank requires more than 51,000 gallons of fuel. Keeping the big planes in the air is expensive, and getting more costly as fuel prices continue rising. Guard officials say they’re trying to be conservative on fuel use these days. In June, the 164th Airlift Wing spent $3.1 million to fly 300 hours with C-5s. This month, the same number of C-5 flight hours would cost $4.3 million. No one is saying the planes should be grounded, but base commanders say fuel supplies are being tightly controlled. To get extra fuel for the base now takes the approval of a two-star general. “Luckily, we don’t have to make budget decisions here,” said Col. Harry Montgomery, the Memphis base commander. “I’ve never been in a situation where I was going to have to call and say I can’t fly this mission because I don’t have enough gas.” Air wing pilots and crews will try to reduce fuel use as much as possible, by holding down cargo weights and flying a little slower, cutting cruising speeds by 3 to 5 percent at full altitude. “It sounds like a small number, but with an airplane this size, getting 5 percent more speed takes a huge amount of fuel to push it up,” Montgomery said. “Instead of being like a race car, think of the C-5 as a barge. If you want that barge to go a little faster, it will burn considerably more fuel.” Fuel costs overall for the U.S. military have increased by 34 percent over the past six months, rising to more than double what the Pentagon was paying three years ago. The cost of jet fuel was $2.31 a gallon in October and is now more than $4. ——— Information from: The Commercial Appeal, http://www.thecommercialappeal.com Published in The Messenger 7.9.-08

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