Ohio National Guard News

121st Air Refueling Wing prepares for new flight simulator

Story by Tech. Sgt. Nic Kuetemeyer, 121st Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

Construction site of simulator inside large empty building with pallets of concrete block all around.  Men working with concrete block.
Senior Master Sgt. Ralph Branson, ONG

Contractors construct the foundation and the building to house a KC-135 Stratotanker flight simulator Feb. 26, 2018, at Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base in Columbus Ohio. The project at the 121st Air Refueling Wing is scheduled to be completed this summer, with the simulator slated to arrive in early 2019.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (02-02-26) —The construction of an area to house a KC-135 flight simulator is underway at the 121st Air Refueling Wing, located at Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base. The $4 million project, including design and construction, began in November 2017 and is projected to be completed this summer.

“The project includes a 2,500-square-foot-high bay, with a 50-foot-high clear area, to allow for full motion of the simulator,” said Maj. Corey Thobe, 121st ARW base civil engineer. “In addition, there is another 3,400 square feet of support space.”

Thobe said the architect, engineer, contractors and subcontractors all were local to Central and Southwestern Ohio, keeping the construction spending in the Ohio economy.

The flight simulator, projected to arrive in early 2019, will be paired with the existing refueling boom simulator and will greatly increase the 121st ARW’s training capacity. Not only will the 121st aircrews be able to maintain their proficiency at home, but the simulators will attract Airmen from all across the country to train in Columbus.

“With the boom sim, this simulator will allow us to become a leader in training,” said Col. Mark Auer, 121st ARW commander. “It makes Rickenbacker a destination. Right now, our crews have to travel to other bases to maintain their job proficiencies, multiple times a year. With this simulator, our crews can spend a little more time at home with their families, and that matters.”

The simulation capabilities of the 121st will mean big things for the surrounding area, not just the Airmen on base. The Columbus community’s economy will see a real benefit, as well.

“Today, we’re taking dollars out of our economy to send crews multiple times a year, to do events in other states,” Auer said. “Last year the, 121st alone had a $90 million economic impact for Columbus and the surrounding communities. Now, with the addition of the flight simulator, crews from all over the country will fly to John Glenn Airport. They will stay in local hotels; they will eat in local restaurants.”

Finally, the pair of simulators will save taxpayer money in the long run. The cost to fly a KC-135 Stratotanker is $10,000 per hour. Once the new flight simulator is up and running, the hours required to train in a real airplane can be greatly reduced.

“We’re asked to make every dollar count for the taxpayer,” Auer said. “There is a huge savings for every event we can accomplish in the simulator. You’re also avoiding a major cost on the airplane itself. It extends the life of the equipment. That’s a significant savings, when you consider the life of a KC-135 and the replacement cost of $45 million dollars.”

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