Report: Selma in final two

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 18, 2005

Staff Reports

the selma times-journal

Selma’s Craig Field is one of two finalist locations for a new U.S. Air Force training project, a Texas newspaper reported on Thursday.

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Quoting sources from airports whose bids apparently had been rejected, The Reporter-Telegram in Midland, Texas, reported that Selma and Midland are on the “short list” for the Air Force’s In Flight Training (IFT) project.

Economic developers in both Selma and Midland along with the U.S. Air Force continue to be mum on the issue.

Wayne Vardaman, president of the Selma and Dallas County, Centre for Commerce, declined comment.

Earlier this month, Air Force spokesman Dave Smith said a “short list” would not be released and that the Air Force would only release the final selection. That announcement is expected to be in October.

The IFT project has stirred excitement in Selma since Lockheed-Martin selected Selma as its partner location in January. Since then, the community has rallied behind the company, trying to help gain the Air Force’s approval.

If Lockheed-Martin wins the contract, it would establish Craig Field as the single location for all Air Force introductory pilot training, serving 1,300 to 1,700 students annually.

Original Lockheed estimates for the program said the project would provide about 330 jobs to the area, plus more than 200 jobs during the construction phase.

Once home to the 29th Flying Training Wing &045; whose mission was pilot training for the Air Force – Craig Air Force Base was originally established as an Army Air Corps base in 1941 and trained pilots for duty in World War II. It was closed in 1978, leaving a hole in the region’s economy.

“This will mean a lot for Selma economically in terms of jobs, in terms of spending,&8221; State Sen. Hank Sanders said of the project when it was announced in January. &8220;But it has a particular powerful symbolic significance for a lot of people.”

Craig Williams, manager of Mathis Field in San Angelo, Texas, was one of the sources quoted by The Reporter-Telegram.

San Angelo has put in a request, but apparently has been dropped from contention by the U.S. Air Force.

Williams speculated that Selma would be the No. 2 choice behind Midland because he said the condition of Midland’s facilities are better than Selma’s.

Williams’ comment about Craig Field is misleading, if not plain wrong.

Despite the Air Force’s closure of the base, the field has remained active, serving private and commercial aircraft.