CRTC hangar project a go

ALPENA — One of the largest concerns of units training at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center is the lack of space and technology in the hangar.

In the coming years that could change as plans to have a $19 million state-of the-art hangar constructed that will be able to accommodate some of the largest military planes, such as a C-17.

Base civil engineer Capt. Brian Blumline said money for the design of the hangar has been allocated and once the architectural work is done, construction of it would begin in 2021. He said a new hangar has been one of the largest needs at the base, but it has been a challenge to acquire the needed funding until recently.

Blumline said aircraft units that train in Alpena have been limited in how and what kind of maintenance and repairs can be done on aircraft.

“Right now we can only house a select few planes in the hangar we have and there is no fire suppression system or heat,” Blumline said. “We can get a few F-16s or F-18 in with their wings folded up, but not larger jets.”

Blumline said during training work on the aircraft is needed while training is taking place, and because of the current limitations of the hangar often work needs to be done outside. He said that isn’t ideal, because a sterile environment is typically preferred to do repairs on highly sensitive technology.

“They don’t really want to do oil changes or change engines in the rain or where there is a lot of dust,” he said.

The new hangar would be about 24,000 square feet and have Wifi and the latest technology, Blumline said. It also will have storage for sheet metal and hydraulic equipment. He said the tech upgrades are very important and will open the door to units that currently can’t train in Alpena but will be able to so after the hangar is built.

“These jets are basically computers with wings, so the hangar needs to be highly technical in order to service them,” Blumline said.

An architect has been hired to design the new hangar and Blumline said the cost to have the plans made would be between $1.5 million and $2 million, depending on what type of features the base wants to include. He said the design plans should be complete by December 2018 and then forwarded to the National Guard Bureau. Blumline said the project for the base is number 15 on the list of capital projects to be done, but added if the design plans are done before the project date, the project could move up the list.

“If we can submit the design sooner, we could get bumped up sooner and get the funding as it becomes available.” he said.

Blumline said the National Guard Bureau has been hesitant the last several years about large investments at the base because there were concerns it would be on the chopping block and facing closure. He said many of those concerns have faded as large training exercises, such as Northern Strike, have raised the confidence level of its longevity.

“The perception of the base being closed has turned away and now the bureau have begun to open its pockets more for CRTC,” Blumline said.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews.