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121st Air Refueling Wing prepares for new flight simulator

Construction

Contractors construct the foundation and the building to house a KC-135 Stratotanker flight simulator February 26, 2018, at Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base.(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Ralph Branson)

Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base --

The construction project for a KC-135 flight simulator is well underway at the 121st Air Refueling
Wing in Columbus, Ohio, as of March 4, 2018.

The $4 million project, including design and construction, began in November of 2017 and is
projected to be completed in June or July of this year.

“The project includes a 2,500 square foot high-bay, with a 50 foot-high clear area, to allow for
full motion of the simulator,” said Major Corey Thobe, 121st ARW Base Civil Engineer. “In
addition, there is another 3,400 square feet of support space.”

Thobe said the architect, engineer, contractors and sub-contractors all were local to the central
and southwestern Ohio regions, keeping the construction spending in the Ohio economy.

The flight simulator, projected to arrive in early 2019, will be paired with the existing refueling
boom simulator and will greatly increase the 121st ARW’s training capacity. Not only will the
121st aircrews be able to maintain their proficiency at home, but the simulators will attract
Airmen from all across the country to train in Columbus.

“With the boom sim, this simulator will allow us to become a leader in training,” said Col. Mark
Auer, 121st wing commander. “It makes Rickenbacker a destination. Right now our crews have
to travel to other bases to maintain their job proficiencies, multiple times a year. With this
simulator, our crews can spend a little more time at home with their families, and that matters.”

The simulation capabilities of the 121st will mean big things for the surrounding area, not just
the Airmen on base. The Columbus community’s economy will see a real benefit, as well.

“Today, we’re taking dollars out of our economy to send crews multiple times a year, to do
events in other states,” said Auer. “Last year the 121st wing alone had a $90 million economic
impact for Columbus and the surrounding communities. Now, with the addition of the flight
simulator, crews from all over the country will fly to John Glenn Airport. They will stay in local
hotels. They will eat in local restaurants.”

Finally, the pair of simulators will save taxpayer money in the long run. The cost to fly a KC-135
Stratotanker is $10,000 an hour. Once the new flight simulator is up and running, the hours in a
real airplane can be greatly reduced.

“We’re asked to make every dollar count for the taxpayer,” said Auer. “There is a huge savings
for every event we can accomplish in the simulator. You’re also avoiding a major cost on the
airplane itself. It extends the life of the equipment. That’s a significant savings, when you
consider the life of a KC-135 and the replacement cost of $45 million dollars.”