Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hoping for a Landing at Cecil; Officials Hope the C-27J Cargo Plane Will Be a Regular Sight around Cecil Field

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hoping for a Landing at Cecil; Officials Hope the C-27J Cargo Plane Will Be a Regular Sight around Cecil Field

Article excerpt

Byline: TIMOTHY J. GIBBONS

Jacksonville's Cecil Field would be the best place to build the military's next-generation cargo plane, representatives of the companies hoping to win the contract for the aircraft said Monday at a politician-thronged gathering at the Westside airfield.

With Gov. Jeb Bush on hand for what might well be his last official visit to Jacksonville, the companies - Boeing Co., L-3 Communications Corp. and Alenia North America - showed off the C-27J Spartan, providing test flights to military officials and members of the media.

"This plane will provide safety and efficiency in our war on terror," Bush said during the news conference. The event kicked off about half an hour late after the governor's plane was diverted to Jacksonville International Airport because of fog obscuring the approach to the runway at Cecil.

The plane is one of two being considered to serve as a light cargo plane for the Army and Air Force, with the decision between the Spartan and a C-295 military transport aircraft built by Raytheon Co. and EADS CASA North America expected to come in February.

At Monday's shindig, a crew of pilots from Alenia and the Italian military showed off how the stubby aircraft operated, including demonstrating a short landing, one of the selling points the companies stress. The Spartan is able to "land in a farmer's field," said Alenia Vice President Chris Schreiber, although the pilots were satisfied Monday with landing in about 800 feet of Cecil's runway.

The city has long sought to add aircraft manufacturing to the mix of aviation-related businesses in Jacksonville, which is now focused on repairing or refurbishing older aircraft.

"This is really what it's all about - bringing aviation businesses to Northeast Florida," Jacksonville Aviation Authority Executive Director John Clark said. …

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