Schumer, Gillibrand Call for New 'Skibird' Aircrafts at Stratton Air National Guard Base

A LC-130 "Skibird" assigned to the 109th Airlift Wing, New York Air National Guard, operates in Antarctica
A LC-130 "Skibird" assigned to the 109th Airlift Wing, New York Air National Guard, operates in Antarctica in 2022. (Jaclyn Lyons/U.S. Air Force)

ALBANY — U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand are calling on the Air Force to replace a fleet of aging aircrafts at Stratton Air National Guard Base in Scotia, some of which are the only heavy airlift vehicles in the country capable of flying north to the Arctic and south to Antarctica.

The LC-130 Hercules (LC-130H) "Skibird" aircrafts operated by the 109th Airlift Wing at the base in Schenectady County are some of the only ski-equipped heavy airlift aircraft in the U.S. capable of traveling that distance. The skis allow the aircraft to land on snow and ice.

Launching their push, Gillibrand and Schumer sent a letter to the Secretary of the U.S. Air Force Frank Kendall noting the aircrafts are nearing the end of their service life after having been in operation for more than 30 years.

"The LC-130H 'Ski-Bird' planes at Stratton are unique and absolutely critical to our national interest in maintaining a critical presence and reach to the Arctic and Antarctic — but they are old and need replacing," Schumer said in a statement. "This limits our brave pilots' and crewmembers' ability to do their jobs and threatens our national security. That is why we are launching this push to get the Air Force to replace these aging aircraft. These planes are used in everything from polar missions to scientific research, and are essential for maintaining America's leadership in the Arctic as we compete with countries like China and Russia. The Air Force must prioritize a new fleet of LC-130H planes for the safety of our military personnel and efficacy of this critical mission, and I promise to do everything I can to fight to land these planes right here in Schenectady County."

The 109th Airlift Wing also supports the Summit Station in Greenland — the only high altitude, high latitude, year-round observing station in the Arctic.

The 109th Airlift Wing did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to a release, the Arctic is a region of growing strategic importance and competition given that China and Russia are expanding their presence in the region. The statement also notes the two countries are establishing strong footholds in the North and South poles, which could "threaten the success of military operations in the region."

"LC-130H 'Skibirds' are the only U.S. military planes capable of carrying out this Arctic and Antarctic mission set. This unique capability means that the LC-130H fleet — flown by our very own New York Air National Guard's 109th Airlift Wing — is vital to protecting our interests in the polar regions," Gillibrand said in the statement. "These aircraft allow us to conduct polar rescues, assist with critical scientific research, and protect our national security interests in the Arctic and Antarctica. But these planes have reached the end of their lifespans, limiting our aircrews and risking American leadership in the Arctic."


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