Vance Air Force Base has a problem, but it is a good problem to have.
The 78-year-old base is being tasked with increasing its output of new pilots by some 34 percent, jumping from 326 graduates a year ago to 420 this year.
This increase is going to require not only a great deal of hard work as Vance turns pedestrians into pilots through its 54-week Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training program, but enough room to accommodate the additional students and instructors.
In order to make some room the base recently opened a new temporary operations building to house the 33rd Flying Training Squadron.
The 33rd, a T-6 Texan II squadron, has been sharing space with the 25th FTS, a T-38 unit, in one of two flight operations buildings. Now the 33rd has a home of its own, a 16,000-foot modular building leased for $1.6 million from Ramtech Building Systems of Mansfield, Texas.
The new temporary facility will allow the 33rd to add a fifth training flight as well as more virtual reality simulators to aid in instruction.
The solution is short-term because regulations dictate that temporary buildings may only be used for five years or less. Down the road Vance officials hope to build a new 250,000-square foot consolidated operations facility housing all flying squadrons as well as base life support functions. That will require funding approved by Congress through its annual military construction legislation.
The increase in pilot training output is good news for the local economy because it would seem to emphasize Vance’s continued importance to America’s national defense as it does its part to mitigate the Air Force’s ongoing pilot shortage.
The base pumps $293.4 million into Enid’s economy and employs many local residents.
We applaud base officials for coming up with at least a temporary solution to what we hope in the future will continue to be a very desirable problem, continued growth in its core mission, delivering pilots.
Likewise we would urge Oklahoma’s congressional delegation to find the funds to finally get Vance’s consolidated operations facility off the drawing board and into the realm of brick and mortar.