The 440th Airlift Wing plans to fly its first three C-130H Hercules aircraft out of Pope Field in North Carolina Wednesday as it enters the next phase of its deactivation.
The Air Force first said in 2014 that it planned to close the Air Force Reserve unit, which it said would save about $116 million. Norht Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C. objected and fought the closure, but was unsuccessful.
A 90-day window delaying the closure expired in early May, prompting the 440th to begin moving forward on flying its 11 C-130Hs to their new homes, said 440th spokeswoman Maj. Lisa Ray.
"Things are happening kind of quickly," Ray said in a Tuesday interview. "We're getting smaller and smaller."
Two of the transport planes departing today will head to the 189th Airlift Wing, an Air National Guard unit based at Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas, and the third will go to Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Georgia.
Most of the remaining planes will go to the 189th, Ray said, although a few others may go to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. However, those destinations could change if the Air Force decides the planes are needed elsewhere, Ray said.
But not all of the planes at the 440th are in flying shape, due to a lack of maintainers. So the wing is bringing in airmen from other bases to help get them airworthy again, as well as to help fly them out.
The 440th expects to have the majority of its planes out by late May, she said. The last few planes, which will require the most maintenance work, aren't expected to fly until late June.
The 440th has to close up shop once and for all in September, Ray says.