Montgomery airshow lifts capital city's chances to land F-35 jet

Montgomery airshow lifts capital city's chances to land F-35 jet

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Alabama leaders are working overtime to make sure Montgomery lands the F-35 stealth jet fighter. The capital city and Maxwell AFB are on the short list of five places that could be a home base for the combat aircraft.

Local leaders say last weekend's airshow at Maxwell was a huge success and helped the city's chances. The event brought in an estimated $10 million and also brought some high-profile decision makers from the Air Force whom business and political leaders are doing everything they can to build relationships with.

According to the city's F-35 Task Force, Montgomery is well-positioned to land the plane...literally.

Also helping Montgomery's chances, two of the five cities on the shortlist will be selected as a home base for the F-35. The other finalists are Gowen Field AGS, Boise, Idaho; Jacksonville AGS Florida; Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Detroit; and Truax AGS, Madison, Wisconsin.

"Of the five final competitors, we're the only one, Dannelly is the only one that's sitting next to an Air Force Base," said Paul Hankins, Co-Chair of the F-35 Task Force.

The community support for that event was through the roof. More than 160,000 people were on base for the event and an additional 15,000 watched off base. Decision makers have also reportedly been impressed with the men and women of the 187th and the community's support.

"The 187th has demonstrated professionalism and the capability to take on this F-35 mission," stated U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-District 2, "and the community support is just such a bonus."

The F-35 is a new and advanced stealth that would replace the 30-year-old F-16s that are currently being flown at Dannelly Field. That's important because if those older F-16s are grounded due to age, it could have a big negative financial impact on the community.

Consultants with ties to the Air Force and similar bids have also been hired. Next week, they'll be going through the first of two practice presentations, tying up any loose ends before the real deal.

"We'll critique them and that will be a build up to the actual visit in May," Hankins said. "The consultants will be back again right before the visit to do it again with them, make sure we have all the answers to the questions before they're asked."

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