The future of the 107th Airlift Wing at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station is looking brighter. As YNN’s Antoinette DelBel explains, a proposal for a new mission at the air base could not only retain but create hundreds of new jobs.
TOWN OF NIAGARA, N.Y. — The Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station’s 107th Airlift Wing could soon be off the chopping block, as a proposal for a drone mission is expected to be approved by congress later this week.
"This is something we had long sought, because the drones are probably the fastest-growing program in the Air Force with the greatest future," said U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, (D).
Schumer said the drone mission will allow the 107th unit to fly the remote controlled aircraft, pending Congressional approval.
Merrell Lane, the Chairman for the Niagara Military Affairs Council (NIMAC), said he's confident it'll pass.
"They're going to be able to push it. It's an uphill battle,” he said. “A lot of budget constraints are going on right now."
The Airlift Wing has faced many uncertainties since losing its refueling mission in 2008, and earlier this year Defense Secretary Leon Panetta vowed to do his best to keep the base open, amidst $500 billion in cuts, which threatened the future of the base.
"A new mission breathes new life in the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station," said Rep. Brian Higgins, (D).
Schumer said Wednesday the 107th would be able to keep its C-130 aircraft for the upcoming year.
He said the C-130 mission and Drone mission would save hundreds of jobs and create hundreds more.
"...A program with a great future and that should mean 500 jobs,” he said. “These drones are utterly amazing and they're the future of the Air Force. They are accurate. They have about 10,000 eyes, they can see everywhere."
"The pilots would be in Niagara Falls actually flying drones based in Nevada, and they would also continue to fly four C-130 aircraft."
Rep. Kathy Hochul showed her support in a statement that read in part:
“I am encouraged by reports that the Air Force will bring a new mission to the air base. This is a positive step in our ongoing effort to ensure that NFARS continues to play an important role in national defense and homeland security.
Schumer said he believes the legislation will be passed by Congress as early as Friday and that the president will sign it.