McConnell Air Force Base has started to fill about 400 job openings to support the KC-46 air refueling tanker. 

“Everything from pilots, to airplane mechanics, to medical personnel and a few support personnel as well,” said Colonel Eric Vitosh, the commander of the 931st Air Refueling Wing at McConnell.

Right now, the refueling wing has about 750 airmen. Vitosh said within the next few years the base anticipates the reserve wing to employ about 1,200 airmen and civilians.

“It means a new mission that we will be sustaining and carrying us much further into this new century that we are in. There will be a lot of opportunities that won’t go away from Wichita, so we are really excited about keeping this steady, state footprint of what McConnell Air Force means for Wichita and the greater Wichita community,” Vitosh said.

Vitosh said McConnell boasts about a $250 million impact on the Wichita community. He said the added jobs will likely have a positive impact on the economy. Local economic experts agreed.

“One thing that people don’t often think about when you think of military is that this is a flow of new money into the economy,” said WSU Center for Economic Development and Business Research Director Jeremy Hill. 

Hill said the more jobs the base can provide, the greater the effect will be on the economy.

“The larger the base becomes, there’s often times more civilian related jobs. It not only employs people who come in and come out, but they are very supportive of the existing community and the labor market locally,” Hill said. “This is a great opportunity for this Wichita area to have some expansion, to grow this regional economy that can benefit in many different ways.”

The first tanker is expected to arrive at McConnell in October. It will replace the five-decade-old KC-135.

McConnell Air Force Base is hosting the Frontiers in Flight Open House and Airshow on September 8 and 9 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds are expected to preform. There will also be more than 70 airplanes and recruiters on site for the free event.