Cue the Top Gun soundtrack.
Most Portlanders wouldn’t think twice at the sight of an airplane approaching PDX International Airport. After all, there were nearly 210,000 flights out of PDX in 2013 alone. Yet, what many people don’t realize is that a small number (about 4,000) of those take-offs and landings were military training flights of the 142nd Fighter Wing of the Oregon National Guard.
While the National Guard might not be the Top Gun of the West, it does provide an essential force to our nation's defense. Since its designation in May of 1946, the 142nd Redhawks has operated in support of the Air Expeditionary Force, the Air Combat Command, as well as offering services in support of state and federal services. Operating primarily out of Portland, the Oregon Air National Guard currently leases 240 acres from the airport, and provides about 1,500 jobs to local servicemen with salaries exceeding $44 million dollars.
The 142nd's long history here was further cemented last month when the Oregon Air National Guard reached an agreement with the Port of Portland Commission to renew its lease for another 50 years. Under this new lease, the allocation of acres will reduce from 240 to 195 over the next twenty years to allow for more commercial air travel. The military will also pay the Port of Portland $368,000 annually for the use of their runways and taxiways, as well as $60,000 annually towards the operation and maintenance of the airport.
Not even snowmageddon or government sequestration keeps the Redhawks down. Although they did choose to reschedule some of their training exercises, the Oregon Air National Guard maintained action readiness throughout both events. So next time you see a light in the nights sky, they may just belong to a fighter pilot (though it’s probably not Maverick).