Canton Repository

February 8, 2005

Bush seeks expansion of airport Guard site

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON — President Bush has proposed spending $7.9 million to expand and improve an Army National Guard facility at the Akron-Canton Regional Airport.

Under the plan, an existing hangar at the Army Aviation Support Facility would be demolished and rebuilt to accommodate six CH-47 Chinook helicopters.

The expansion plan is part of the proposed military construction budget for the fiscal year beginning next Oct. 1. The White House unveiled the proposal Monday.

The current hangar can accommodate only one Chinook, and only when its rotors have been removed, Ohio National Guard spokesman Mark Wayda said.

In recent years, the 137th heavy helicopter aviation company at the airport has expanded its Chinook inventory to four choppers. The unit has been assigned six helicopters.

The large Chinooks are used to transport troops, equipment and supplies. In the event of a terrorist attack or other disaster, the helicopters could be used to transport the injured, Wayda said. The Guard has planned for such an emergency with state agencies, including the Ohio Department of Health, he said.

According to a request for design services authored by the Guard, the existing hangar was built in 1986 and does not have a fire-suppression system.

Plans call for demolishing the existing hangar and replacing it with one that would be 11,088 square feet larger. A new 26,400 square foot aircraft storage facility also would be built.

Other elements of the project include a fire suppression system, new lighting and improvements to the security system.

Wayda said if Congress approves the president’s request, construction would likely begin at the end of this year and take about 18 months.