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Delaware Air National Guard break ground on $17M hangar

Katie Tabeling
After negotiations years in the making, the Delaware Air National Guard (DANG) broke ground on a $17.5 million fuel cell hangar at the 166th Airlift Wing on July 10.

Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long, U.S. Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons, U.S. Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester break ground on the Delaware Air National Guard hangar in early July. | PHOTO COURTESY OF THE OFFICE OF U.S. SENATOR TOM CARPER

NEW CASTLE — After negotiations years in the making, the Delaware Air National Guard (DANG) broke ground on a $17.5 million fuel cell hangar at the 166th Airlift Wing on July 10.

For decades, the guard has been servicing C-130 Hercules out of a hangar that is not large enough to fit the entire aircraft. C-130s have an average wingspan of 133 feet and can range between 98 feet and 113 feet in length – the tail is typically left out of the hangar bay during maintenance.

U.S. Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons and Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester worked to secure funding for the new hangar in the Fiscal Year 2022 government spending package. The hangar was originally built in 1962, and has been overdue for a replacement.

“Today’s groundbreaking ceremony is the culmination of years of hard work, collaboration, and tenacity,” Blunt Rochester said in a statement. “As we mark the start of the long-awaited construction of the hangar, I am extremely proud to have worked with my team as well as Senator Carper and Senator Coons to have secured this critical funding that will invest in the guard’s safety and preparedness and in turn make our state safer, stronger and even more resilient.”

The future 29,600-square-foot facility is needed to service the latest generation in military aircraft: the C-130J, which has state-of-the-art technology, and can climb faster and higher and take off and land in a shorter distance, and adds 15 feet to the fuselage which adds more cargo space.

Service at the 166th Air Wing includes fuel cell repairs, wash and corrosion prevention, painting, part replacement and inspections. In the current, smaller hangar, paint repairs cannot be done, and the heating is insufficient to allow personnel to apply cure sealant to repair the fuel cell.

The additional space would also give room for aircraft jacking and strut maintenance, which currently can not be done. Electric control hosts provide safer maintenance capabilities.

“There are numerous reasons this project is important to the Delaware Air National Guard, but none bigger than enhancing the safety of the men and women who will be working in this building,” DANG Maj. Gen. Michael Berry said in a statement. “This new hangar will make their jobs safer, and for that I am grateful.” 

The guard services eight C-130s, with 24 crew members assigned daily tasks there, ranging from turboprop mechanics to hydraulic repairs and sheet metal technicians. Another 157 personnel will work regularly out of the hangar.

“I am proud we were able to secure the majority of the funding for this crucial project to help Delaware’s Air National Guard be able to safely and efficiently maintain their C-130 aircraft,” Carper said in a statement. “From my days as governor and commander-in-chief of the Delaware National Guard to today, I am proud of the men and women who serve Delaware and our neighbors, and I will continue to make sure they have everything they need to be mission ready.”

“Today’s event represents years of work by our congressional delegation to secure the $17.5 million necessary to make this project happen. I’m so proud to stand with Maj. Gen. Berry and my colleagues in Congress today to move the mission of our Air National Guard forward,” Coons added.

The Delaware Air National Guard is based out of space shared with the Wilmington Airport, home to private aviation and commercial flights run by Avelo. These days, it’s best known as the destination for President Joe Biden when flying on his regular trips home. More than 1,000 people are stationed at the base.

The hangar is expected to be complete by January 2025.

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