Peoria Air National Guard commander says updating aircraft may save jobs

By WEEK Reporter

April 22, 2014 Updated Apr 23, 2014 at 9:56 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- With ongoing cutbacks to the national defense budget, local lawmakers are pushing to modernize aircraft at Peoria's Air National Guard base.

One commander said this may secure the longevity of those workers' jobs.

The decades old C-130H Hercules aircraft is flown by the Peoria Air National Guard at the 182nd Airlift Wing.

182nd Group Operations Commander, Colonel Dan McDonough has worked at this base for more than 28 years. Now, he is worried these planes are on the path to becoming obsolete. The C-130H's are less prevalent in active duty.

"If we don't have the similar aircraft to active duty, the probably more easy solution is for them to just go away," he said.

The U.S. Department of Defense may decide to spend more money on newer plane, the C-130J, now used in active duty. That could mean less funding for the maintenance of these planes.

"Once that happens, then we lose the flying capabilities here at this base, which would mean a significant reduction of jobs," said Colonel McDonough.

More than 1,000 jobs are at risk.

The new planes will also help the Air National Guard respond to disaster. The planes have newer technology that allows them to lift-off faster, land on dirt strips and detect problems more efficiently.

The movement to modernize the planes has the support of area lawmakers.

"For the past five years I've led the congressional effort to secure funding and other legislative support for the 182nd Airwing," said Congressman Aaron Schock. "Thus far, we've secured millions of dollars for modernization efforts, and enlisted the support of key administration and congressional allies. I welcome Rep. Bustos recent support for these efforts and her willingness to echo my commitment to support this strategic regional asset."

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