PLATTSBURGH — Contrary to recent talk, the United States Air Force will not be returning to Plattsburgh anytime soon.
At last week's Clinton County Legislature meeting, John Gallagher (D-Area 9, City of Plattsburgh) said that he had just had relatives visit him from out of town.
They flew into Albany, and while there, they heard a discussion on a local radio station that mentioned the Air Force was considering locating a fleet of F-35A aircraft at Plattsburgh International Airport.
Plattsburgh International was mentioned as an alternative to Burlington International Airport in Vermont since residents in South Burlington and Winooski have been objecting to the F-35s stationed there because of noise.
The F-35s would be a replacement for the F-16s that fly out of Burlington with the Air National Guard unit known as the Green Mountain Boys. About 300 of the 400 permanent civilian jobs at the Burlington base are directly related to the aircraft.
Plattsburgh International opened in the summer of 2007 on the flight line of the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base, where the Air Force operated a Strategic Air Command base from the mid 1950s until 1995.
When the base was operational, it was home to several different types of aircraft, including the FB-111 fighter-bombers and KC-135 stratotankers.
Gallagher said that, as far as he knew, the talk on the Albany radio station was not fact, but speculation.
County Administrator Michael Zurlo said there has been no effort by the county to reach out to the Air Force about the F-35s.
"We are not actively engaging in bringing them here," he said.
The Air Force said it is considering and still analyzing five locations for the F-35s, including Burlington, which is a preferred site, according to Media Operations Officer Ann Stefanek.
The other preferred site is Hill Air Force Base in Northern Utah.
Stefanek said Mountain Home Air Force Base in Southwest Idaho, Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, S.C., and Jacksonville Air Guard Station in Florida are considered reasonable alternatives.
"A final basing decision will not be made until the Environmental Impact Analysis process is complete," Stefanek said in an email to the Press-Republican from the Pentagon.
"The Air Force has no plans to base F-35s at Plattsburgh."
City of Plattsburgh Mayor Donald Kasprzak said he hopes the Air Force will reconsider.
"We have a proud and rich military history here and a great history with the Air Force, and I would certainly welcome the Air Force back into our community," he said.
"An operation like that with 300 to 400 jobs would not only be great for our economy, it would help with the overall development of Plattsburgh International Airport."
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