Illinois Lawmakers Want Springfield to Fly Again

A group of Illinois Congressmen is urging Air Force Secretary Michael Donley to identify a new flying mission for the Illinois Air National Guard’s 183th Fighter Wing in Springfield. These lawmakers also asked Donley to extend the wing’s firefighting mission beyond September. The wing “maintains a unique set of skills and expertise” vital to the region, wrote Sen. Dick Durbin (D), Sen. Mark Kirk (R), Rep. Tim Johnson (R), Rep. Bobby Schilling (R), Rep. Aaron Schock (R), and Rep. John Shimkus (R) in a letter to Donley Tuesday. Moreover, they asserted, it’s “well equipped” to assume a new flying mission due to “its access to airport facilities.” The wing’s last F-16s departed Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport in 2008, courtesy of BRAC 2005. Since then, it’s had non-flying roles like repairing F-16 engines. The firefighters were originally set to depart by September 2008, but USAF has granted several extensions so far.