It’s been an exciting few weeks for Dane County’s airport and economy.
First, the Pentagon picked Madison’s Air National Guard base at Truax Field in Madison as the future home of 18 F-35 fighter jets.
Then, United Airlines announced it will begin daily nonstop commercial flights between Madison and San Francisco in June.
Congratulations to the many public officials and private advocates who helped make these improvements become reality for south-central Wisconsin.
The Air Force was looking at several possible locations around the country for its most advanced fighter jets but picked Truax Field late last month. The designation will strengthen the 115th Fighter Wing here, as well as the economy.
Truax Field is the military operations at the Dane County Regional Airport. It employs 445 full-time people in addition to 700 National Guard members who participate in periodic drills. The base delivers $100 million in annual economic impact to the region and provides emergency services for the commercial airport.
Truax has long been home to a squadron of F-16 fighter jets, which are being replaced by the F-35s. Had Madison not been chosen for the F-35s, the base could have closed.
The economic benefits of landing the F-35s in Madison were evident by the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce raising money to help push for the Truax location.
The local chamber and Madison’s growing technology sector also are ecstatic about having nonstop commercial flights to San Francisco, which is near Silicon Valley, the top U.S. technology hub. Having such an easy and fast connection between San Francisco and Madison should help lure more investment and increase business ties between the two regions. In addition, San Francisco has federal laboratories and academic research centers, similar to UW-Madison.
Madison will be the smallest city east of the Mississippi River to have nonstop flights to San Francisco, and the only one in Wisconsin.
It shows our regional economy and reputation for innovation are truly taking off.
The F-35s will start to arrive at the Dane County airport in 2023, assuming an environmental impact study goes smoothly.
Critics worry the warplanes will be loud and expensive. But they are expected to fly less often than the F-16s because pilots will rely more on simulation. The F-35s also do not have to use afterburners on takeoff, which should limit noise.
The military budget needs more scrutiny from Congress. But the decision to invest in F-35s, which will give America superior air power over its adversaries, has already been made.
Madison will make a great home for these stealthy aircraft. And our regional airport will continue to expand with better connections.
That’s a lot to celebrate and support.