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Falls air base breaks ground on $5 million C-130 simulator

Chris Caya/WBFO News

U.S. Air Force pilots from around the world will soon be traveling to Niagara Falls for their annual training. Local elected officials and military brass broke ground Tuesday on a new flight simulator at the air base. The $5.2 million simulator is for the C-130 cargo planes stationed at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station and other U.S. bases around the world. More than 450 pilots a year are expected to use the facility in order to fulfill their required annual training.

Flight simulators help pilots fulfill that training at a lower cost than actually flying their planes. Officials say the state-of-the-art, 11,250 square foot facility will increase the combat readiness of the 914th Airlift Wing.

Lt. Col. Mark Ables with the 914th says the facility will save the Air Force money.

"In this day and age when we have to cut costs and we're reducing flying hours and the defense budget is dwindling, we get a lot of our requirements, like the airlines do, in a simulator where we can replicate emergency procedures, shut down engines, and do crew coordination training without the expense of having to burn fuel," Ables said.

The future of the air base has been a question mark  over the past decade and the station faced a recommended closure in 2005. John Cooper, chairman of the Niagara Military Affairs Council, says aircraft are the base's largest asset, but Cooper says they're easy to fly away and move to another location.

"We know that this new facility, this simulator is going to be anchored very well to the ground," Cooper said. "It'll bring some additional stability for the future."

The project is expected to be completed in about two years.