Fairchild Air Force Base

Fairchild Air Force Base
Fairchild Air Force Base

Air Mobility Command.png

Part of Air Mobility Command (AMC)
Located near: Spokane, Washington
Boeing KC-135 assigned to Fairchild AFB, Washington
Coordinates 47°36′54″N 117°39′20″W / 47.615°N 117.65556°W / 47.615; -117.65556 (Fairchild AFB)
Built 1942
In use 1942-Present
Controlled by  United States Air Force
Garrison 92d Air Refueling Wing.png
92d Air Refueling Wing
Airfield information
Elevation AMSL 2,461 ft / 750 m
Website fairchild.amc.af.mil
Direction Length Surface
ft m
5/23 13,899 4,236 Concrete
Fairchild AFB is located in Washington (state)
Fairchild AFB
Location of Fairchild AFB, Washington
Entrance to Fairchild AFB

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's 15th Expeditionary Mobility Task Force. The 92 ARW is responsible for providing air refueling, as well as 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 March 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 Rudy Lopez.


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.[citation needed]


92nd Air Refueling Wing:

  • 92d Operations Group
The 92nd OG provides air mobility for America through 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.

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 World War 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 the Korean War in 1950, both groups deployed to Japan and Guam. After only a few months, General MacArthur released the 92nd 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 92nd 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 336th 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).

To provide air defense of the base, United States Army Nike-Hercules Surface-to-air missile sites were constructed during 1956/1957. Sites were located near Cheney (F-37) 47°32′30″N 117°32′46″W / 47.54167°N 117.54611°W / 47.54167; -117.54611; Deep Creek (F-87) 47°39′29″N 117°42′55″W / 47.65806°N 117.71528°W / 47.65806; -117.71528; Medical Lake (F-45) 47°35′10″N 117°40′32″W / 47.58611°N 117.67556°W / 47.58611; -117.67556, and Spokane (F-07) 47°40′50″N 117°36′28″W / 47.68056°N 117.60778°W / 47.68056; -117.60778. The Cheney site was active between 1957-June 1960; Deep Creek Sep 1958-March 1966; Medical Lake 1957-March 1966 and the Spokane site between 1957 and June 1960.

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. Seven were killed in the crash, six 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[who?] 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.

Helicopter Operations UH-1N USAF Survival School 36TH RESCUE FLIGHT

The 36th Rescue Flight (36 RQF) supports the USAF Survival School training through hands-on helicopter operations for over 3,000 students per year. Training is conducted year-round at Fairchild and at the School’s field location in the Colville National Forest, about 60 miles north of Fairchild. Flight operations include live rescue hoist training, Para drop demonstrations, and combat rescue procedures training for students in the basic Combat Survival Course. An aircraft and crew are on stand-by 24 hours a day, 6 days a week to provide medical evacuation coverage for students and instructors alike.[citation needed]

The 36 RQF also supports the National Search-and-Rescue (SAR) Plan by conducting SAR and medical evacuation missions in a 4-state region, from the Cascades in Washington to the Rockies in western Montana. The unit has the only hoist-equipped aircraft and Night Vision Goggle (NVG)-qualified aircrews in the Inland Northwest. SAR missions are conducted both day and night, often at high altitude in treacherous mountain terrain, in areas completely inaccessible by ground vehicle.

Both the Survival School support mission and the Search-and-Rescue mission require crews to train day and night, year-round to maintain proficiency in critical skills. Searching for and recovering lost or injured personnel in the mountains at night is the most demanding mission an aircrew can undertake in peacetime. Depending on the weather, survivor’s condition, location, and altitude, these often-dangerous missions can require operations at the edge of the helicopter’s performance envelope. RQF aircrews regularly perform “practice” mountain training missions in conjunction with Survival School operations, but also launch out of Fairchild several days a week. Closer to Spokane, a training Landing Zone (LZ) is located in the Seven-Mile area near the ORV park. This LZ is used when weather or other constraints prevent transit to more distant and remote training LZ’s. Crews practice search-and-rescue and hoist procedures under controlled conditions in order to be ready for the real thing.

In order to be effective, NVG missions must be flown in complete darkness. Here in the northwest, that can mean very late operations due to the long days during the summer months. Aircraft will take off an hour after sunset and may fly 2-3 hours, usually landing no later than midnight.

Depending on where an actual rescue mission occurs, survivors and injured personnel are often transported to Spokane’s larger hospitals (Deaconess and Sacred Heart) due to the level of trauma care available there. Patients are airlifted directly to the hospital’s rooftop helipads, which is why helicopters are often seen flying over the city, both day and night. Landing on a building’s rooftop is also a non-routine operation, a skill that requires some practice to do safely. Proficiency and familiarization training for newly assigned aircrews is also required on a regular basis.

The unit has an outstanding record of humanitarian assistance in lifesaving SAR operations. Since 2001, the 36 RQF has responded to over 50 requests for assistance and saved over 35 lives. These missions included searching for crashed aircraft and lost hikers, fisherman and hunters; notification and evacuation of backcountry personnel in the face of Washington’s worst fire season in 7 years; transport of a critically injured gunshot victim; and the rescue of a seriously injured back-country snowboarder with a 200-foot hoist at night on NVG’s from near Sandpoint, Idaho. Most recently[when?], the RQF found and rescued a 62 year-old elk hunter who was lost for numerous hours in another difficult multi-day search operation.

On average, the unit responds to 15-20 calls for assistance each year, and has been credited with saving over 600 lives since its inception in 1971.[citation needed]


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[2] 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 Lindner, 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.[3] 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.

Previous names

  • Established as Galena Field (popular designation), renamed Spokane Air Depot, 1 March 1942
  • Spokane Army Airfield, 9 July 1942
  • Spokane Air Force Base, 13 January 1948
  • Fairchild Air Force Base, 1 November 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 August 1942
  • 498th Base HQ and Air Base Sq, 1 February 1943
  • 4134th AAF Base Unit, 1 April 1944
  • 203d AAF Base Unit, 1 September 1947
  • 92d Airdrome Gp, 17 November 1947 (rdsgd 92d Air Base Gp, 12 July 1948)
  • 814th Air Base Gp, 8 August 1952
  • 92d Air Base Gp, 4 September 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
  • 47th Air Division, June 30, 1971 – February 27, 1987

References for history introduction, major commands and major units[4]

Major Aircraft and Missiles assigned

  • KC-135 Stratotanker, 1958–present
  • SM-65E Atlas 1961–1965
  • UH-1N Twin Huey 1971-Present 36th Rescue Flight ( AETC)


Intercontinental ballistic missile facilities

SM-65E Atlas Missile Sites

The 567th Strategic Missile Squadron operated nine SM-65E Atlas ICBM sites (1 April 1960-25 June 1965).

On July 14, 1958, the Army Corps of Engineers Northern Pacific Division directed its Seattle District to begin survey and mapping operations for the first Atlas-E site to be located in the vicinity of Spokane. Originally, the Air Force wanted three sites with three missiles at each (3 x 3); however, in early 1959, the Air Force opted to disperse the missiles to nine individual sites as a defensive safety measure. Work started at Site A on 12 May 1959, and completion at Site I occurred on 10 February 1961. Auxiliary support facilities for each site were built concurrent with the launchers. At Fairchild AFB, support facilities, including a liquid oxygen plant, were completed by January 1961.

Activation of the 567th Strategic Missile Squadron on 1 April 1960, marked the first time SAC activated an E series Atlas unit. On December 3, 1960, the first Atlas E missile arrived at the 567th SMS. Construction continued and SAC accepted the first Series E Atlas complex on July 29, 1961. Operational readiness training, which previously had been conducted only at Vandenberg AFB, California, began at Fairchild during the following month. On 28 September 1961, Headquarters SAC declared the squadron operational and during the following month, the 567th placed the first Atlas E missile on alert status. The bulk of the Fairchild force was on alert status in November.

As a result of Defense Secretary McNamara's May 1964 directive accelerating the phaseout of Atlas and Titan I ICBMs, the first Fairchild Series E Atlas missiles came off line in January 1965. On March 31, the last missile came off alert status, which marked the completion of Atlas E phaseout. The squadron was deactivated within 3 months.

Today all of the former missile sites still exist and most appear to be in good condition. Most of them are in agricultural areas and presumably are being used to support farmers by storage of equipment and other material. Site "1" and "2" appear to be redeveloped into light industrial estates; "4" and "6" appear to be converted into private residences.


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 2010, there were 2,736 people. At the 2000 census threre were , 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. [1] These bombs were removed from the base by the end of the 1990s.

See also


  1. ^ Check-Six (2007). "The Crash of 'Czar 52'". Check-Six.com. http://www.check-six.com/Crash_Sites/Czar52Crash.htm. Retrieved 2007-04-20.  - Contains video footage of the 1994 crash, and details on the hospital shootings.
  2. ^ "An Airman's Revenge: 5 Minutes of Terror". The New York Times. June 22, 1994. http://www.nytimes.com/1994/06/22/us/an-airman-s-revenge-5-minutes-of-terror.html. 
  3. ^ http://www.kxly920.com/Global/story.asp?S=8368881[dead link]
  4. ^ 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
  5. ^ 92d ARW AFHRA
  6. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. http://factfinder.census.gov. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 

Other sources

External links

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