Eight C-5 planes may be leaving Westover Air Reserve Base - CBS 3 Springfield - WSHM

Eight C-5 planes may be leaving Westover Air Reserve Base

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CHICOPEE, MA (WSHM) -

Westover Air Reserve base could be losing half of their C-5 cargo plane fleet.

Base officials knew this was a possibility last February when the president's budget called for the reduction in planes.

The plan calls for those changes by 2016, but right now it is still just a proposal.

Nearly a year after Westover officials learned that they could be seeing eight of their 16 C-5's removed from the base, they're remaining positive about the base's future.

"Even under the cuts Westover remains active, vital, viable," said Lt. Col. James Bishop, chief of public affairs at Westover.

The Air Force Reserve Command announced plans Thursday for major structure changes at Westover and across the country.

Right now the base faces a proposal that would mean renovations of their C-5B model cargo plans to the newer more efficient C-5M model.

But half of their fleet would be moved to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland by 2016.

Under the same proposal, the Texas base would lose all eight of their C-5s.

"Nothing else in the U.S. Military can do what a C-5 does with that kind of cargo and that kind of heavy airlift," Bishop said.

The base has a $238 million dollar impact on the local economy in addition to employing 5,500 people between reservists and full time workers.

Bishop says he doesn't see the potential cuts impacting employment at the base. 

"We haven't gotten any indication of cuts for personnel and we have such a wide range of people," he said.

Westover has one of the largest runways on the entire east coast and also serves as an inspection dock for the entire country's fleet of C-5's.

Bishop says those factors mean the base will continue to be as vital as ever in the region and nationally.

"We're a big part of Western Massachusetts economy and we're a big part of national security and I don't see either of those things changing," he said.

Westover officials say they are fortunate because under the proposals some bases will be de-activated.

Final decisions will be made after a congressionally-mandated inspection of air force reserve bases.

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