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Roswell airfield hopes Navy returns in 2019

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A Navy instructor pilot preflights a T-6B Texan II on Feb. 1 at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas. Photo courtesy of Anne Booher, U.S. Navy. (Submitted Photo)

Roswell could see a return of a Navy pilot training program, which would mean an economic boost for the area.

Public Affairs Officer Lt. Michelle Tucker of the Navy Air Station in Corpus Christi said that a final decision has not been made yet but is expected to occur after the start of the new year.

If the training does occur here, pilots, instructors and mechanics would be expected to arrive in late January and would train here for a 60-day period, said Scott Stark, director of the Roswell International Air Center.

The Navy last trained at the Air Center in 2016, Stark said.

“There is quite a bit of fog off the Gulf Coast at that time of year,” he said, “so they come to New Mexico, either Las Cruces or here.”

Stark said the Air Center staff stay in contact with Navy leaders to let them know they are welcomed, but that the decision is based on military needs and requirements.

Typically about 50 pilots participate per session, with two or three training sessions occurring during the two-month period, which would mean somewhere between 100 to 150 people could be expected, when including instructors and mechanics.

The economic benefits to the area include the fuel purchased, which provides four cents a gallon directly to the airport, and whatever the group spends while staying in the area.

“It is the fuel flow,” said Stark, “and then the city benefits greatly, of course, from hotel rooms, restaurants and rental cars that they spend money on.”

The airport also would see about 150 more flight operations a day, which does not require more staffing at the airfield but can benefit the airport over the long term by increasing the number of aircraft served by the control tower, which matters to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Pilots who participate train on a T6B Texan II, Stark said. In the past, aircraft were parked on the airfield’s ramp, with a hangar rented for maintenance.

Some pilots could become fighter pilots but some would choose or be directed to helicopters, cargo planes or other aircraft.

“This is just the first round of training they get as they learn to fly,” he said, “and then they progress to the aircraft that they will fly for their mission.”

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.