ALBEMARLE — A significant shift by the N.C. Air National Guard will have long-term effects on Stanly County and the broader Charlotte region after the first of two new military planes landed at Charlotte Douglas Airport on Saturday.
The U.S. Air Force announced in 2016 that the N.C. Air National Guard 145th Airlift Wing would transition from flying the C-130 aircraft to the C-17. Both the C-130 and C-17 are cargo aircraft — the “C” designation means cargo — that serve different roles. The C-130 is a tactical transport that travels regionally delivering cargo. The jet-powered C-17 is considered a strategic asset and is capable of carrying larger payloads than the C-130 and can cover much greater distances than the turboprop-powered C-130.
That promised transition occurred Saturday to much fanfare and the rumbling of new jets on the tarmac.
For the 145th Airlift Wing, the transition provides security for the future.
“It is indisputable. It gives us a flying mission for the foreseeable future,” said Maj. Gen. Greg Lusk to Charlotte’s WSOC-TV on Saturday. “The future is secure,” said Col. Troy Gerock, commander of the 145th Airlift Wing.
The direct impact of the shift means job security for the airmen of the 145th, and officials say there are plans to add up to 100 full-time employees for maintenance of the new planes.
Stanly County Commissioner Ashley Morgan said the Stanly County Airport will also be affected by the change in a positive way.
“Charlotte will be receiving a total of eight planes, these were the first two,” said Morgan. “Stanly County won’t have any based here, however once all the updates and construction are completed at the Stanly County Airport we will basically become the main training facility for C-17s on the East Coast.
“You will see C-17s from West Virginia to Charleston using our airport. In the next couple of years, you will see some major changes at our airport to be able to handle these large aircraft.”