Officials at the Lincoln Airport took another step Friday toward facilitating the temporary move of U.S. Air Force planes based at Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue to Lincoln later this year.
During a special meeting Friday morning, the Airport Authority approved lease and construction agreements with the Air Force that cover needed improvements, facility rentals and other items needed for the airport to temporarily host aircraft from the 55th Wing during a runway replacement project at Offutt.
Overall, the contract is worth about $26 million, a tab the Air Force will pick up. The Airport Authority also will receive a 15 percent "service provider fee," because it is essentially acting as a general contractor and overseeing all the work, said Airport Executive Director David Haring.
The Air Force must still approve the deal, a process that's likely to take a couple of weeks, said Lt. Col. Vance Goodfellow, deputy commander of the 55th Wing's Mission Support Group.
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Construction could start sometime in March, with all work scheduled to be done by about Thanksgiving. Goodfellow said it will then take anywhere from two weeks to a month for the 55th Wing to get set up on the ground at the airport, meaning people should start seeing Air Force planes in Lincoln "by Christmas."
Much of the construction will piggyback off existing work that's being done at the airport, allowing it to be done more quickly.
Goodfellow said the deal to operate out of Lincoln, a relatively short drive from Offutt, is "huge," because it means airmen will be able to return home each night. It also will save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, because operations don't have to be totally relocated to another base in another state.
The 55th Wing's intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and electronic attack missions are expected to be based out of Lincoln for about a year while the runway at Offutt is replaced in a $130 million project.