Montgomery Chamber flying high on F-35 possibilities

Updated: Dec. 9, 2016 at 10:48 AM CST
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(Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - At the Montgomery Chamber's 144th Annual Meeting, local leaders were buzzing about the possibility of the F-35 landing in the capital city.

Alabama's congressional delegation, state leaders and the chamber all say they're working to make sure the military is impressed when they arrive for an on-site assessment, which could happen as soon as January.

The F-35 is an advanced stealth plane and would replace the 30-year old F-16s currently being flown by the 187th.
That's important because if those F-16s are grounded due to age, it could have a big financial impact on this community.

"When we start talking about the economic development, the ability to not only maintain employment, I believe 1400 people are currently associated with the 187th," said Bruce Anderson, Chairman of the Montgomery Chamber. "That number would be maintained and we would hope that it would grow as well."

The commander of the 187th, Col. Randall Efferson is optimistic about their chances. Also, helping the odds is the fact that two of the top five cities will be chosen.

"I think it's very good. I think we're a top tier unit and again, we just want to be one of the two units that is selected," he said. "And i would say, even if we're not selected, this competition would put us in a very good stead for the next round, when that occurs, which i don't know when that would be. But I think we're going to win."

The other cities in the running include Detroit, Jacksonville, Boise and Madison. Even though the planes are fast, it would be some time before they arrive. If Montgomery is selected, the F-35s wouldn't arrive until sometime in 2022.

The Air Force is expected to make its final decision on the top two cities sometime in the spring.

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