Colorado Springs

Fate of small Air Force unit in Colorado Springs still uncertain

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Congressman Doug Lamborn is leading the fight to keep an Air Force unit comprised of two jets and 17 pilots in Colorado Springs, despite an effort by the branch to save money.

The Secretary of the Air Force announced the 200th Air Lift Squadron at Peterson Air Force Base will shut down by June to save millions of dollars.

A typical squadron usually consists of 12 to 24 aircrafts, but the 200th is only comprised of two jets with 17 pilots trained to fly them.  

The unit's role is to fly generals and special visitors. 

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said the shutting down of the unit will save $10 million over four years, but the unit's commander disagrees.

"I'm not entirely convinced that we're going to save money over the long run," said Lt. Col. Derek Tate, the unit's commander.

Tate said it will cost $17 million to replace these pilots when accounting for training that is estimated to cost more than a million dollars for each of the 17 pilots. 

"It's not as cost-cutting as it seems which is why we're just hoping for a second look from some of our senior leaders," said Tate.

Lamborn is against the move, citing the Air Force is already short 1,500 pilots. 

In a statement released to KRDO NewsChannel 13, Lamborn said, "This proposal makes no sense at a time the Air Force has sounded the alarm on a pilot shortage crisis. These pilots were trained at a cost of more than $10 million." 

Gov. John Hickenlooper sent a letter to Wilson two months ago requesting the pilots from the squadron be relocated to the Air Force Academy to help ease their pilot shortage.

Wilson said they're working with the National Guard Bureau and the Colorado National Guard to help provide jobs for the airmen affected by this transition, but Tate is still concerned some of that weight may be left on their shoulders. 

"It's kind of on our own, individually, to find out what opportunities exist out there," said Lt. Col. Tate.

If the decision stands, the unit will be shuttered in June and there is no existing unit to replace them.

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