Westover Air Reserve Base, Rep. Richard Neal welcome $42.6 million maintenance hangar funding
CHICOPEE — Westover Air Reserve Base aircraft maintainers were out Thursday in 4-degree weather working on the base’s massive C-5M Super Galaxy cargo jets.
But more of that work will happen inside once a $42.6 million hangar is built, probably by the year 2022.
The new hangar, to be called the Regional ISO Maintenance Hangar, was announced at a Thursday news conference. It will be the size of two football fields and more than 90 feet tall inside, said Col. David C. Post, commander of the of the 439th Maintenance Group at Westover. That’s big enough to fit the tail section of a C-5M, the largest aircraft in the U.S. Air Force fleet.
The base has eight of its own C-5Ms, but all 52 of them in the Air Force fleet are brought here for periodic inspections.
“We touch them four times more than anybody else," Post said. “(The hangar) will keep it out of the weather and keep our folks out of the weather so we can do faster work. Right now that inspection takes 15 days. We want to increase our throughput and get those planes back out there sooner so they can do their jobs.”
U.S. Rep. Richard Neal and the U.S. Air Force Reserve hosted the news conference in a World War II-era hangar just north of where the new building will be built over 18 months starting in 2020.
Neal, chairman of the powerful house Ways and Means Committee, said the hangar is the latest in a long line of improvements at the base including housing, a control tower and a $4 million indoor shooting range that will be built this year.
“It really is amazing the transformation at this base,” Neal said. “Westover is a community.”
Westover’s $46.2 million hangar represents more than half the $84.4 million total that was spent on all four building projects at Air Force Reserve bases included in the most recent defense authorization. Westover is the largest Air Force Reserve base in the country.
“That’s quite a commitment,” said Chicopee Mayor Richard J. Kos, who referenced past brushes Westover has had with military base closure commissions.
The 439th Airlift Wing at Westover added nearly $194.5 million to the local economy in the 2018 budget year, the base said in November. That includes a payroll of nearly $120 million in 2018 and $13.1 million in construction funding.
“Not only is Westover critical to the national defense, but Westover is an economic generator,” Neal said.
The base has about 3,000 employees, including active duty, reserve and civilian employees. That doesn’t count the 28 tenant units at Westover, 10 Army units and three Marine Corps units, which employ about 1,700 people, mainly reservists.
Westover began in 1939, Kos said, making the new hangar a great 80th birthday present.
Post said an avionics building will be demolished to make room for the new hangar.