In his My Take essay [“This site has my vote for building a new airport,” Nov. 3, Opinion], Joseph Tipler suggests “adapting” McChord Airfield at Joint Base Lewis-McChord for civilian use to alleviate overcrowding at Seattle-Tacoma Worldwide Airport.
He concludes his essay by noting that skeptics would solid a thousand criticisms at this concept. I’d solid just one.
It gained’t work.
The central drawback is that McChord isn’t a stand-alone airfield. Tipler implies we may depart the Military aspect of JBLM as it’s, and suggests the C-17 transport plane on the coronary heart of the McChord airlift mission be relocated to, maybe, Travis Air Power Base in California. We will then invite Alaska, Delta, United, American and all the opposite airways at Sea-Tac to carry extra flights and plane to the South Sound, construct new terminals for passengers, and go on our merry means having solved the issue.
Appears easy? It’s not.
The time period “Joint Base Lewis-McChord” isn’t only a identify. It describes the mission.
There are almost 40,000 troopers and airmen stationed on the Military and Air Power base. They’re a joint base as a result of they work in live performance to guard the nation right here and all through the Pacific Rim. When troopers from there frequently deploy to Korea or Japan or elsewhere by means of the Indo Pacific theater, or to scorching spots world wide, to NATO allies in Europe, or to the Center East, they’re taken there and frequently provided and resupplied by the C-17s that fly out and in of McChord.
McChord can’t be magically remodeled right into a civilian airport, as a result of the airspace would battle completely with all of the plane that the Military flies 24/7 on coaching missions and actual deployments of standard troops and Particular Forces troopers out of Grey Military Airfield on JBLM Lewis Principal, nearly subsequent door to the airfield at McChord. As a result of the mixed base is collectively managed, that airspace might be ruled by the navy and accommodate each transport features and Military coaching features. There isn’t any method to safely and effectively handle civilian air site visitors and navy site visitors on adjoining fields that share the identical airspace.
So if McChord had been to be vacated by the navy, it must take the Military at JBLM with it.
That may imply relocating greater than 100,000 troopers, airmen, relations, and civilian contractors.
It might take away the second largest employer within the state of Washington (57,000 jobs), get rid of the $13 billion annual financial influence that fuels the South Sound, and ship all of it elsewhere. And that someplace must by some means make room for these 100,000 service members and contractors and their dependents.
On high of all that, this proposal must get congressional approval and undergo the Base Realignment and Closure course of. Since roughly the top of the Chilly Battle, Congress has authorized the closure of 350 installations in 5 rounds of realignment and closure. JBLM survived all of them.
Tipler asks: Wouldn’t or not it’s simpler and cheaper to take over McChord than to construct a brand new airport someplace within the Puget Sound area?
The apparent reply is not any. So, what now?
The primary fee chartered by the Legislature to resolve the necessity for a brand new supplemental airport failed for a lot of causes. Not less than two of the preliminary websites it urged conflicted with nationwide protection air site visitors out of JBLM. These websites had been non-starters.
A brand new fee must be chartered, and must respect and perceive current air site visitors wants (together with Sea-Tac, Paine Area, Boeing Area, and the McChord and Grey navy airfields). It wants not to have geographic/political carveouts because the final fee did (it was forbidden from wanting anyplace in King County, for example).
However taking a look at McChord and JBLM and pondering that taking it over for civilian aviation is a straightforward and cheaper resolution is just not the way in which to go.