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Fairchild Air Force Base

Air Mobility Command.png
Air Mobility Command

Fairchild AFB
Airport type Military: Air Force Base
Owner United States Air Force
Operator Air Mobility Command
Location Spokane, Washington
Built 1942
In use 1942–present
Occupants 92d Air Refueling Wing
Elevation AMSL 2,461 ft / 750 m
Coordinates 47°36′54″N 117°39′20″W / 47.615°N 117.65556°W / 47.615; -117.65556
Direction Length Surface
ft m
5/23 13,899 4,236 Concrete
Sources: official web site[1] and FAA[2]
Fairchild AFB is located in Washington
Fairchild AFB
Location of Fairchild AFB, Washington
Entrance to Fairchild AFB
KC-135 of the 92d ARW

Fairchild Air Force Base (AFB) (IATA: SKAICAO: KSKAFAA LID: SKA) is a United States Air Force base located approximately 10 miles (16 km) southwest of Spokane, Washington.

The host unit at Fairchild is the 92d Air Refueling Wing (92 ARW) assigned to the Air Mobility Command 15th Expeditionary Mobility Task Force. The 92 ARW is responsible for providing air refueling, as well as rapid and reliable passenger and cargo airlift and aero-medical evacuation missions supporting U.S. and coalition conventional operations as well as U.S. Strategic Command strategic deterrence missions.

Fairchild AFB was established in 1942 as the Spokane Air Depot. It is named in honor of General Muir S. Fairchild (1894-1950). General Fairchild was a World War I aviator and died on 17 Mar 1950 while serving as Vice Chief of Staff, USAF. The 92d Air Refueling Wing is commanded by Colonel Robert D. Thomas. Its Command Chief Master Sergeant is Chief Master Sergeant David R. Nordel.


Fairchild is home to a wide variety of units and missions. Most prominent is its air refueling mission, with two wings, one active, the 92d Air Refueling Wing, and one Air National Guard, the 141st Air Refueling Wing, both flying the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker. Other units here include the Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape school, medical detachments, a weapons squadron and the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency.

The 92d ARW employs over 2,200 active-duty military, as well as over 700 civilian employees. It supports Air Mobility Command's mission, providing global reach air power and deploying expeditionary combat support forces in support of worldwide contingency requirements. The 92nd ARW capability of aerial refueling enhances the Air Force's ability to accomplish its primary missions of Global Reach and Global Power.


92nd Air Refueling Wing:

The 92nd OG provides the best air mobility for America through reliable air refueling, airlift, and operational support.
  • 92d Maintenance Group
Provides maintenance support to world-class aircraft and equipment.
  • 92d Mission Support Group
Provides the foundation for support and morale of Fairchild.
  • 92d Medical Group

Tenant Units at Fairchild are:

  • 509th Weapons Squadron
  • 336th Training Group
  • 368th Recruiting Squadron
  • Joint Personnel Recovery Agency
  • Detachment 13, 373rd Training Squadron
  • Office of Special Investigations, Det. 322


Fairchild AFB is named in honor of General Muir Stephen Fairchild (1894–1950). General Fairchild received his wings and commission in 1918, and served as a pilot during World War I. He held various air staff positions during World War II. General Fairchild received his fourth star in 1948, and died on March 17, 1950 while serving as Vice Chief of Staff, USAF.


Previous names

  • Established as Galena Field (popular designation), renamed Spokane Air Depot, 1 Mar 1942
  • Spokane Army Airfield, 9 Jul 1942
  • Spokane Air Force Base, 13 Jan 1948
  • Fairchild Air Force Base, 1 Nov 1950

Major Commands to which assigned

  • Air Service Command, March 1, 1942
  • AAF Materiel and Services, July 17, 1944
Redesignated: AAF Technical Service Command, August 31, 1944
Redesignated: Air Technical Service Command, July 1, 1945
Redesignated: Air Materiel Command, March 9, 1946

Base operating units

  • 15th Station Complement, 15 Aug 1942
  • 498th Base HQ and Air Base Sq, 1 Feb 1943
  • 4134th AAF Base Unit, 1 Apr 1944
  • 203d AAF Base Unit, 1 Sep 1947
  • 92d Airdrome Gp, 17 Nov 1947 (rdsgd 92d Air Base Gp, 12 Jul 1948)
  • 814th Air Base Gp, 8 Aug 1952
  • 92d Air Base Gp, 4 Sep 1957 (rdsgd several times since)-Present

Major Units assigned

  • 2d Air Service Area Command, July 1, 1941 – September 9, 1942
  • 41st Air Base HQ & Air Base Group, April 22, 1941 – March 31, 1944
  • 15th Station Compliment Air Depot, June 21, 1942 – February 4, 1943
  • Spokane Air Depot, March 1, 1942 – September 1, 1953
  • 85th AAF Base Unit, August 7, 1944 – October 20, 1946
  • 98th Bombardment Wing, October 24, 1947 – August 15, 1953
  • 92d Bombardment (later Air Refueling) Wing, November 17, 1947 – Present
  • 90th Bombardment Wing, January 2 – March 13, 1951
  • 111th Strategic Reconnaissance Group, April 10, 1951 – January 1, 1953
  • 99th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, January 1, 1953 – September 1, 1956
  • 567th Strategic Missile Squadron (ICBM-Atlas), April 1, 1960 – June 25, 1965
  • 3636th Combat Crew Training Wing, April 2, 1966 – January 1, 1993
Redesignated: 336th Air Refueling Wing, January 1–29, 1993
Redesignated: 336th Crew Training Group, January 29, 1993 – April 1, 1994
Resesignated: 336th Training Group (USAF Survival School), April 1, 1994 – Present

References for history introduction, major commands and major units[3]

Major Aircraft and Missiles assigned


Operational History

General Muir Stephen Fairchild

Since 1942, Fairchild Air Force Base/Station has been a key part of the United States' defense strategy—from WW II repair depot, to Strategic Air Command bomber wing during the Cold War, to Air Mobility Command air refueling wing during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. Today, Fairchild’s aircraft and personnel make up the backbone of the Air Force’s tanker fleet on the west coast.

Fairchild’s location, 12 miles (19 km) west of Spokane, resulted from a competition with the cities of Seattle and Everett in western Washington. The War Department chose Spokane for several reasons: better weather conditions, the location 300 miles (480 km) from the coast, and the Cascades Mountain range providing a natural barrier against possible Japanese attack.

As an added incentive to the War Department, many Spokane businesses and public-minded citizens donated money to purchase land for the base. At a cost of more than $125,000, these people bought 1,400 acres (6 km2) and presented the title to the War Department in January 1942. That year, the government designated $14 million to purchase more land and begin construction of a new Spokane Army Air Depot.

From 1942 until 1946, the base served as a repair depot for damaged aircraft returning from the Pacific Theater. In the summer of 1946, the base was transferred to the Strategic Air Command (SAC) and assigned to the 15th Air Force (15 AF). Beginning in the summer of 1947, the 92nd and 98th Bomb Groups arrived. Both of the units flew the most advanced bomber of the day, the B-29 Superfortress. In January 1948, the base received the second of its three official names: Spokane Air Force Base.

With the outbreak of hostilities in Korea, both groups deployed to Japan and Guam. After only a few months, General MacArthur released the 92d to return to the states while the 98th remained in the Far East. The 98th was then reassigned to Nebraska. Upon its return to Fairchild, the 92d was re-designated the 92d Bombardment Wing (Heavy). In November 1950, the base took its current name in memory of Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, General Muir S. Fairchild, a native of Bellingham, Washington. The general entered service as a sergeant with the Washington National Guard in June 1916 and died while on duty in the Pentagon in March 1950. The formal dedication ceremony was held July 20, 1951, to coincide with the arrival of the wing’s first B-36 Peacemaker.

B-52 Stratofortress and KC-135 Stratotanker

In 1956 the wing began a conversion that brought the B-52 Stratofortress to Fairchild, followed by the KC-135 Stratotanker in 1958. In 1961, the 92d became the first “aerospace” wing in the nation with the acquisition of the Atlas intercontinental ballistic missile. With the new role and the addition of missiles, the 92d Bomb Wing was re-designated the 92d Strategic Aerospace Wing. However, the designation remained longer than the missiles, as the Atlas missiles were removed in 1965.

On March 15, 1966, the 3636th Combat Crew Training Group was established at Fairchild. In 1971, the group became a wing and assumed control over all Air Force survival schools. Later reduced to a group level command, the unit, now known as the 336th Training Group, continues this mission for the Air Education and Training Command (AETC).

Air Refueling

As military operations in Vietnam escalated in the mid-1960s, the demand for air refueling increased. Fairchild tanker crews became actively involved in Operation YOUNG TIGER, refueling combat aircraft in Southeast Asia. The wing’s B-52s were not far behind, deploying to Andersen AFB, Guam for Operation ARC LIGHT and the bombing campaign against enemy strongholds in Vietnam.

In late 1974, the Air Force announced plans to convert the 141st Fighter Interceptor Group of the Washington Air National Guard, an F-101 Voodoo unit at Geiger Field, to an air refueling mission with KC-135 aircraft. The unit would then be renamed the 141st Air Refueling Wing (141 ARW) and move to Fairchild. Work began soon thereafter and by 1976 eight KC-135E aircraft transferred to the new 141 ARW. Today, the 141 ARW continues its air mobility mission, flying the KC-135R model.

On January 23, 1987, following the inactivation of the 47th Air Division at Fairchild, the 92nd Bombardment Wing was reassigned to the 57th Air Division at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota.

On March 13, 1987, a KC-135A crashed into a field adjacent to the 92nd Bomb Wing headquarters and the taxiway during a practice flight for an In-Flight Refueling Demonstration planned for later in that month. Eight were killed in the crash, seven aboard the aircraft and one on the ground.

Following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, a total of 560 base personnel deployed to DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM from August 1990 to March 1991. The 43d and 92d Air Refueling Squadrons flew a combined total of 4,004 hours, 721 sorties, and off-loaded a total of 22.5 million pounds of fuel to coalition aircraft.

On September 1, 1991, under Air Force reorganization, the 92d Bombardment Wing (Heavy) was re-designated the 92d Wing, emphasizing a dual bombing and refueling role.

In June 1992, with the inactivation of Strategic Air Command, the B-52 portion of the wing became part of the newly established Air Combat Command (ACC) and was re-designated the 92d Bomb Wing. As Strategic Air Command finished 46 years of service to the nation, Fairchild bomber and tanker crews took top honors at Proud Shield '92. This was SAC's final Bombing/Navigation Competition. The wing won the Fairchild Trophy for best bomber/tanker team as well as the Saunders Trophy for the tanker unit attaining the most points on all competition missions.

December 7, 1993 marked the beginning of a significant change in the mission of Fairchild when the B-52s were transferred to another ACC base while the KC-135s, now assigned to the newly established Air Mobility Command (AMC) would remain. This was the first step in Fairchild’s transition to an air refueling wing. The departure of B-52s continued throughout the spring of 1994, with most of the bombers gone by May 25, 1994.

On June 24, 1994 one of the final B-52H aircraft left at Fairchild crashed during a practice flight for an upcoming air show, killing all four crew members.


Air Refueling Wing

On July 1, 1994, the 92d Bomb Wing was re-designated the 92d Air Refueling Wing (92 ARW), and Fairchild AFB was transferred from ACC to Air Mobility Command (AMC) in a ceremony marking the creation of the largest air refueling wing in the Air Force. Dubbed as the new “tanker hub of the Northwest,” the wing was capable of maintaining an air bridge across the nation and the world in support of US and allied forces.

Since 1994, the 92 ARW has been involved in virtually every contingency mission around the world. Whether it has been combat operations or humanitarian relief missions, Fairchild tankers have been force extenders, enabling U.S. and Allied aircraft to successfully complete their missions. In addition, 92 ARW KC-135s have routinely supported special airlift missions in response to world events or international treaty compliance requirements.

In 1995 aircraft from Fairchild flew to Travis AFB, California in support of its first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) mission, transporting Russian inspectors to sites in the Western U.S. The wing has flown START missions in the U.S. every year since. And in May 2000, the wing became the first active duty KC-135 unit to transport U.S. inspectors on a START mission into Ulan Ude, Russia.

Throughout much of the decade of the 90s, the wing was actively involved in missions to suppress the aggression of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Wing personnel answered the call for operations such as DESERT STRIKE and PHOENIX SCORPION and routinely deployed in support of Operation Southern Watch (OSW) and Operation Northern Watch (ONW). OSW and ONW required a constant presence of tankers and associated support personnel to help enforce the UN-sanctioned no-fly zones in Iraq. Southwest Asia, however, was not the only trouble spot, as the wing also had to deploy aircraft and personnel in 1999 to support Operation ALLIED FORCE, the mission to stop Serb aggression in Kosovo.

2001 will be remembered most for 9/11 and America’s response to the Global War on Terrorism. Following the terrorist attacks on our nation, the wing began providing around-the-clock air refueling of Combat Air Patrol fighter aircraft and initiated 24-hour ground alert operations in support of Operation NOBLE EAGLE, the defense of our homeland. Preparations also began for what would become a series of extended Operation ENDURING FREEDOM (OEF) deployments for aircrews and maintainers as well as combat support and medical personnel. These deployments continue today for OEF as well as Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.


A significant event at Fairchild occurred on June 20, 1994 when Dean Mellberg, an ex-Air Force member entered the base hospital and shot and killed five people and wounded many others. Mellberg had been discharged after failing psychological evaluations by base psychologists Maj. Thomas Brigham and Captain Alan London. At the time of the shooting, Fairchild's hospital was an ungated facility. The gunman, armed with a Chinese-made MAK-90, an AK-47 clone [1] entered the office of Brigham and London and killed both men. Mellberg continued to move through the hospital, injuring and killing several people, including 8-year-old Christin McCarron. The gunman then walked out of the building into the parking lot, where after killing Anita Linder, was confronted by Security Policeman, Senior Airman Andy Brown. From approximately 70 yards away, Brown ordered Mellberg to drop his weapon. After Mellberg refused, from a kneeling position Brown fired four shots from his 9mm pistol, two rounds hitting the perpetrator in the head and shoulder, killing him[2]. After an investigation it was concluded that Airman Brown was justified in his actions, saving countless lives, and was awarded the Airman's Medal by President Clinton.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 6.5 square miles (16.8 km²), all of it land. Spokane International Airport is located just four miles to the east.


Location of Fairchild AFB, Washington

As of the census[6] of 2000, there were 4,357 people, 1,071 households, and 1,048 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 670.2 people per square mile (258.8/km²). There were 1,114 housing units at an average density of 171.3/sq mi (66.2/km²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 78.20% White, 7.90% African American, 0.53% Native American, 3.56% Asian, 0.37% Pacific Islander, 3.79% from other races, and 5.67% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 8.52% of the population.

There were 1,071 households out of which 72.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 90.8% were married couples living together, 4.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 2.1% were non-families. 1.9% of all households were made up of individuals and none had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.36 and the average family size was 3.39.

In the CDP the population was spread out with 34.1% under the age of 18, 24.9% from 18 to 24, 38.3% from 25 to 44, 2.1% from 45 to 64, and 0.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 23 years. For every 100 females there were 127.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 135.7 males.

The median income for a household in the CDP was $33,512, and the median income for a family was $33,398. Males had a median income of $22,299 versus $15,815 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $11,961. About 4.8% of families and 5.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.4% of those under age 18 and none of those age 65 or over.


Washington State had at one time the distinction of having more nuclear warheads than four of the six known nuclear-armed nations. These warheads were concentrated in two places: at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane and at the Kitsap Submarine Base across Puget Sound, on the Hood Canal. At Fairchild, 85 nuclear gravity bombs (25 B61-7 gravity bombs and 60 B83 gravity bombs) were stored in a "reserve" nuclear depot. Bangor's 8 submarines have 24 Trident I missiles per boat with 8 warheads per missile, for a total of 1,536. [3] These bombs were removed from the base by the end of the 1990s. The 509th Weapons Squadron, an Air Combat Command detachment, continues to maintain conventional munitions at the base's Munitions Storage Area. [4]

See also


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  1. ^ Fairchild Air Force Base, official web site
  2. ^ FAA Airport Master Record for SKA (Form 5010 PDF), effective 2007-12-20
  3. ^ Mueller, Robert (1989). Volume 1: Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982. USAF Reference Series, Office of Air Force History, United States Air Force, Washington, D.C. ISBN 0912799536; 0160022614
  4. ^ 92d ARW AFHRA
  5. ^ Check-Six (2007). "The Crash of 'Czar 52'". Retrieved 2007-04-20. - Contains video footage of the 1994 crash, and details on the hospital shootings.
  6. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  • Maurer, Maurer. Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office 1961 (republished 1983, Office of Air Force History, ISBN 0-912799-02-1).
  • Ravenstein, Charles A. Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947–1977. Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama: Office of Air Force History 1984. ISBN 0-912799-12-9.
  • Mueller, Robert, Air Force Bases Volume I, Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982, Office of Air Force History, 1989

External links


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