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Niagara Falls air base to receive eight tanker planes

WBFO file photo

Federal lawmakers representing New York State say jobs at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station will be better protected, with the U.S. Air Force sending a new mission to the local installation.

Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand issued a joint statement Thursday morning, as did local Representatives Brian Higgins and Chris Collins, announcing the transfer of eight KC-135 planes to Niagara Falls. 

KC-135 planes were previously stationed at the base until 2008. Over the years, in a bid to remain in operation and preserve jobs, the base evolved its services. Among its current operations are remote drone aircraft piloting. 

“The Air Force made the right decision to bring KC-135 tankers back to the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station,” said Senator Gillibrand in a prepared statement. "I fought to ensure that these tankers are returned to where they belong in Western New York, wrote letters, held meetings and made calls to urge top Air Force officials to prioritize NFARS for this mission. NFARS is the perfect location for the KC-135s. It is an important economic engine that supports local jobs and plays a vital role in our national defense, and I am pleased to see the Air Force heeded our call to house the KC-135 fleet at this base.”

The air base employes an estimated 3,000 people. While it's the largest employer in Niagara County, advocates for the base say its economic impact stretches beyond the county lines.

"Over half of the people who work at the base are from Erie County, said John Cooper, Chairman of the Niagara Military Affairs Council. "It's an employer really to all of Western New York and a great economic impact here."

More details about the mission, Cooper said, are expected when President Obama releases his fiscal year 2017 on February 9.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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