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    Departure of the KC-135 — March Air Reserve Base’s ‘Airborne Shell Station’ — Marks End of Era

    Departure of the KC-135 — March Air Reserve Base's ‘Airborne Shell Station' — Marks End of Era

    Marlo Fleck might be the world's most highly trained gas station attendant.

    That's how Fleck, a 37-year-old U.S  Force Reserve major, jokingly describes her job flying Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers assigned to the 452nd Air Mobility Wing at March Air Reserve Base near Riverside.

    The tankers, which Fleck called “airborne Shell station(s),” refuel aircraft in midair, extending their range and how long they can stay airborne.

    In service for six decades, the Air Force's 396 KC-135s — March has 12 of them — are being phased out and replaced by the newer, more advanced Boeing KC-46A Pegasus. The U.S. military has ordered 179 KC-46As to be delivered between now and 2029.

    Twelve KC-46As, each costing $176 million, will arriving at March as soon as late 2024 to replace KC-135s that have been at the base 29 years, said Jamil Dada, a longtime community liaison with March.

    It's a big deal for a base that dates to World War I and shed thousands of jobs during a 1990s downsizing. Getting the planes shields March from closure “for 30 to 40 years,” Dada said.

    March already injects $800 million into the local economy through everything from gas purchases and hotel stays to hiring civilian contractors, Dada said. The KC-46As represent another $3 billion investment, he  said.

    While technically a reserve base, March, which is sandwiched between Riverside, Moreno Valley and Perris in…

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