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PCR #169  (Vol. 4, No. 25)  This edition is for the week of June 16--22, 2003.
La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
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Future for Mac Dill Air Force Base Looks Bright

On Wednesday June 18, 2003, the United States Air Force plans to announce that Mac Dill Air Force Base in Tampa will be home to one of three Boeing 767 refueling supertanker installations in the United States. Such an installation virtually assures the base's survival beyond the next round of anticipated base closures according to military officials.

The aircraft mentioned above will be designated as KC-767's and replace the Air Force's aging fleet of KC-135's. The KC-135's, which current serve Mac Dill, are a four engine jet that are a military refueling tanker version of the famed Boeing 707 jetliner, which served the nation's airlines from 1958 to 1983, and was largely responsible for the worldwide advent of passenger jet travel (the British were the first with a passenger carrying jet, called the DeHaviland Comet, which regrettably never became a commercial success due to several tragic crashes early in its career). This is the same military refueling tanker that conducted missions over Iraq in "Operation Iraqi Liberation".

The KC-135 was the first kerosene carrying (hence the designation "KC" - - jet fuel is a kerosene product, unlike high lead gasoline that was used for piston engines) jet tanker, replacing the four-engine piston driven Boeing KC-97 in the early 1960's. In service for over 43 years, the KC-135, along with its bomber counter part the Boeing B-52 is one of the oldest aircraft in the Air Force fleet, although the original variants from the 60's and 70's have been mothballed or destroyed.

The current KC-135 wing at Mac Dill is the final variant that was manufactured in Boeing's Renton, Washington plant around 1980. In the early 1980's the Air Force had the aircraft's original Pratt and Whitney power plants replaced with the more fuel efficient, clean, quieter and more powerful CFM-56 engine. That same type of engine was also used to re-engine the stretched versions of the commercial Douglas DC-8 jet at that same time, considerably lengthening the useful lifespan of that aircraft, as well as the KC-135. The Air Force plans to retire the KC-135 fleet starting in 2010.

The KC-767, as mentioned above, is a military version of the commercial jet version of the Boeing 767. There are three variants of the twin-engine second generation jet, the 767-200, which launched service in 1982 and is the smallest variant; the Boeing 767-300, which is the mid-sized variant, which was launched in the late 1980's; and the 767-400, which is the largest variant which entered service in the 1990's. Which of these three variants will be used is unknown to this author. The Air Force also currently uses the KC-10, their version of the commercial McDonnell-Douglas DC-10 tri-jet, as a refueling tanker.

32 of the KC-767 tankers are slated for positioning at Mac Dill over the next six years. Up to 360 additional personnel, and $202 million dollars in base upgrades will be a result of the move, not only ensuring Mac Dill's viable future, but also undoubtedly helping to infuse the local economy.

Carved out of rattlesnake infested pine and palmetto thickets adjacent to Hillsborough Bay, Tampa Bay and Old Tampa Bay, prior to the Second World, Mac Dill Air Force Base is practically synonymous with Tampa's history and development. From the Second World War to the 1960's, it served as a Strategic Air Command (or "S.A.C.") base, seeing bomber aircraft such as B-24's, B-36's, B-47's and B-52's, along with KC-97 and KC-135 refueling tankers. Its presence as a S.A.C. base earned its being filmed in the 1955 color movie "Strategic Air Command". Written by Beirne Lay Jr. ("Twelve O' Clock High") and Valentine Davies, the color movie, which has incredible aerial photography, features actors Jimmy Stewart, June Allyson and others. It gives a great view of the base circa 1950's. For more information on this movie, link to the International Movie Data Base ("IMDB") at http://us.imdb.com/Title?0048667

As the Viet Nam War escalated in the 1960's and early 1970's, Mac Dill was converted into a Tactical Air Command (or "T.A.C.") base, seeing fighter aircraft such as the McDonnell F-4 Phantom, and by the late 1970's and early 1980's, the General Dynamics F-16. The fate of Mac Dill became clouded by the early 1990's, when in a round of base closures, the F-16 fighter wing was transferred to a base in Arizona. The base was saved from extinction when the Federal Government decided to send aircraft belonging to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ("N.O.A.A.") based at Miami International Airport to Mac Dill about a year or two after the removal of the fighter wing. Finally, by the mid to late 1990's, the Air Force transferred the KC-135 wing to Mac Dill from a base in Montana (but the members of the wing loved that move!).

It is indeed great news to hear that our base not only has a more stable future now, but also will play such a vital role in the defense of our country. In addition to the refueling wing and N.O.A.A., Mac Dill also houses the United States Readiness Command for the Middle East.

La Floridiana Tidbits   

First Woman to Report Weather on Television in St. Petersburg Dies June 11th
On June 11, 2003, the first woman to report the weather in the Tampa Bay metro television market passed away. Mary Ivy Ayers reported the weather for the old Channel 38 in St. Petersburg, which broadcast from the Old Million Dollar Pier in that city.

"Get Fuzzy" Gets A Reuben Award!
My favorite modern day comic strip, 'Get Fuzzy" (http://www.unitedmedia.com/comics/getfuzzy/) by Darby Conley won this year's Rueben Award in the Newspaper Comic Strip Division! Also worth mentioning is that Matt Groening, creator of Fox network's long-running cartoon feature, "The Simpsons", and the "Life in Hell" comic strip won Cartoonist of the Year. The awards are presented annually by the National Cartoonists Society (http://www.reuben.org/). The 2002 winners were announced on May 24, 2003 in San Francisco, California. The event was hosted by Scott Adams ("Dilbert"), Garry Trudeau ("Doonesbury") and Cathy Guisewite ("Cathy"). For more information, link to the June 10, 2003 edition of the Tampa Tribune at http://tampatrib.com/baylifenews/MGASAUW0RGD.html

Congratulations Bucky Katt, Satchel Pooch, Robb Wilco and Darby Conley! Now, when is ["Blondie" artist] Denis Lebrun ever going to get some hard-earned recognition from the N.C.S.?

"La Floridiana" is ©2003 by William Moriaty.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2003 by Nolan B. Canova.