Fairchild AFB

Template:Infobox military structure

Airfield information
Elevation AMSL 2,461 ft / 750 m
Coordinates 47°36′54″N 117°39′20″W / 47.61500°N 117.65556°W / 47.61500; -117.65556Coordinates: 47°36′54″N 117°39′20″W / 47.61500°N 117.65556°W / 47.61500; -117.65556

Website fairchild.amc.af.mil
Location of Fairchild Air Force Base
Direction Length Surface
ft m
5/23 13,899 4,236 Concrete

Fairchild Air Force Base (AFB) (IATA: SKAICAO: KSKAFAA LID: SKA) is a United States Air Force base, located approximately 12 miles (20 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 Eighteenth Air 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). A World War I aviator, he was the Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force at the time of his death.

The 92d Air Refueling Wing is commanded by Colonel Brian M. Newberry.[1] Its Command Chief Master Sergeant is Chief Master Sergeant Wendy Hansen.[2]


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 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.

Over 5,100 active duty Air Force, Air National Guard, and tenant organization military and civilian employees work on Fairchild, making the base the largest employer in Eastern Washington. Fairchild's annual economic impact on the Spokane community is approximately $427 million, constituting 13 percent of the local economy.[3]


Host unit

92nd Air Refueling Wing:

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

Tenant Units at Fairchild are:[3]


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 17 March 1950 while serving as USAF Vice Chief of Staff.

Operational history

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 (20 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 (5.7 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.[4]

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. The general entered service as a sergeant with the Washington National Guard in June 1916 and was an aviator in World War I. He died at his quarters at Fort Myer while on duty in the Pentagon in March 1950. The formal dedication ceremony was held 20 July 1951, to coincide with the arrival of the wing’s first B-36 Peacemaker.[5][6]

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.

The weapons storage area (WSA) for the bombers was located south of the runway at Deep Creek Air Force Station, a separate installation constructed from 1950 to 1953 by the United States Atomic Energy Commission and operated by the Air Materiel Command.[7] The facility was one of the thirteen original sites built for storage, maintenance, and operational readiness of the nuclear stockpile. Deep Creek became part of Fairchild Air Force Base on July 1, 1962, with operations transferred to the Strategic Air Command.[8]

On 15 March 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 on 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 23 January 1987, following the inactivation of the 47th Air Division at Fairchild, the 92nd Bombardment Wing was reassigned to the 57th Air Division at Minot AFB, North Dakota.

On 13 March 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 that month. Seven were killed in the crash, six aboard the aircraft and one on the ground.[9][10]

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 1 September 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.

7 December 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 25 May 1994.

On 24 June 1994 one of the few remaining B-52H aircraft at Fairchild crashed during a practice flight for an upcoming air show, killing all four crew members.[11][12]

Air refueling wing

On 1 July 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 many contingency missions around the world. 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 1990s, the wing was actively involved in missions against Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. The wing also deployed aircraft and personnel in 1999 to support Operation Allied Force.

Following the destruction of the World Trade Center, 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 wing also began a series of extended Operation Enduring Freedom deployments for aircrews and maintainers as well as combat support and medical personnel.

1994 shooting incident

On 20 June 1994, Dean Mellberg, an ex-Air Force member, entered the base hospital and shot and killed five people and wounded many others. Mellberg recently had been discharged from Cannon AFB, NM as unfit for duty.

Previously, psychologists Maj. Thomas Brigham and Captain Alan London at Fairchild AFB had found him unfit for duty, which resulted in a transfer to the Wilford Hall Medical Center at Lackland AFB for further psychological examination. With Congressional pressure brought by Mellberg's mother, Airman Mellberg was found to be fit for military service. Airman Mellberg then was reassigned to Cannon Air Force Base where similar events led to him being returned to psychologists for evaluation. After this evaluation, he was discharged from Cannon AFB as being unfit for military service. He traveled to the town of Airway Heights, just outside of Fairchild AFB, where he purchased weapons and planned his attack on the base.

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,[13] 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 and killed Anita Lindner. He then was confronted by a security policeman, Senior Airman Andy Brown. From approximately 70 yards away, Brown ordered Mellberg to drop his weapon. After Mellberg refused, Brown fired four shots from his 9mm pistol, with two rounds hitting the perpetrator in the head and shoulder, killing him.[14] After an investigation it was concluded that Airman Brown was justified in his actions, having saved countless lives, and was awarded the Airman's Medal by then-President Bill 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, 1 March 1942
  • AAF Materiel and Services, 17 July 1944
Redesignated: AAF Technical Service Command, 31 August 1944
Redesignated: Air Technical Service Command, 1 July 1945
Redesignated: Air Materiel Command, 9 March 1946

Base operating units

Major units assigned

References for history introduction, major commands and major units[15]

Major Aircraft and Missiles assigned


Intercontinental ballistic missile facilities

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