Anticipation builds as the fire started inside the National Guard’s giant hangar. And it was started on purpose.
Engineers, architects, and firefighters clutched their cameras, as they put the nearly $20 million helicopter base to the test.
Major Kevin Bricker said the building’s almost ready to open, and he should know. He’s been there every step of the way.
“June 25 will be five years,” he said.
Eventually the Grand Island base will house six Chinooks and a number of support choppers.
Bricker, the facility commander said, “We’ve outgrown where we are. We can’t get all the aircraft in the hangar now. With the new facility we can hangar everything and everything we’re asking for.”
Five years after architect Jeff Hinrichs started designing the building, he was back to see how it turned out. There’s plenty of room for the guard to maintain the helicopters.
Hinrichs, of Wilkins, Hinrichs, Stober said, “The Chinook helicopter that’ll be stationed here are big birds. We had to design a facility that would allow those to be stored inside and work on them.”
As the alarm sounded, fire fighting foam began to spray the hangar. With tens of millions housed in a giant hangar, the National Guard is not taking any chances. It’s a spectacle that’s attracted a crowd anxious to see if it’ll work.
“It’s nice to see you’ll have that kind of protection if you need it,” Bricker said.
It’s a frothy success. In less than two minutes foam filled the hangar, coating everything and everyone with thick suds.
Bricker said, “The foam test went as advertised.”
It won’t be long until the guard’s in the facility. They’re planning a grand opening May 28.
Reporter’s Notes by Steve White:
The estimated cost at groundbreaking in 2007 was $17.6 million for a building with more than 70,000 square feet of space. It’s on the southeast side of the Central Nebraska regional airport, near the Jackrabbit Run golf course.
The facility will have Chinooks as well as OH-58 Kiowa helicopters. They also plan to add Lakota choppers, classified as a Light Utility Helicopter (LUH).