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Repairs to Wright Patt gate damaged in crash will take weeks

Published: Sunday, December 03, 2017 @ 10:33 AM


            Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Gate 22B will stay open 24 hours a day until crews repair damage that caused the gate to be unable to close. (Nov. 22, 2017) STAFF FILE PHOTO
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Gate 22B will stay open 24 hours a day until crews repair damage that caused the gate to be unable to close. (Nov. 22, 2017) STAFF FILE PHOTO

A major gateway damaged when a car crashed into it leaving a gate unable to close will cost at least $85,000 to repair and take until later this month to fix, according to a Wright-Patterson spokesman.

Gate 22B off Interstate 675, was damaged in the early morning hours of Nov. 22 in the incident, according to authorities.

EVOL Ltd. & DCI JV, of Dublin, Ohio was awarded an $85,000 contract to complete repairs by Dec. 22, said Wright-Patterson spokesman Daryl Mayer. A gate canopy was also damaged, he added in an email.

RELATED: Wright-Patt gate damaged in crash, unable to close

Once an Ohio State Highway Patrol report is reviewed, the base will decide whether or not to seek restitution for the cost of repairs, Mayer said in an email.

The gate temporarily switched to 24-hour operations after the incident, Mayer has said.

Gate 19B off National Road, which normally is the 24-hour gateway in Area B, changed daily operations to 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

RELATED: Ohio leaders say funding will help protect Wright Patt

An emergency medical services crew transported the driver to Soin Medical Center for treatment after the crash, authorities have said. The motorist, a Dayton man who was driving a Dodge Challenger, was issued a traffic citation, a Highway Patrol spokesman has said.

The incident did not appear intentional, police have said.

Will a shutdown happen? Wright Patt in holding pattern

Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 3:41 PM


            Wright-Patterson Air Force Base employs more than 27,000 employees and is the largest single-site employer in Ohio. The base has a $4.1 billion economic impact in Ohio. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base employs more than 27,000 employees and is the largest single-site employer in Ohio. The base has a $4.1 billion economic impact in Ohio. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

In a familiar and more frequent holding pattern in recent months and years, thousands of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base employees await word on whether the federal government will avert the latest shutdown threat on Friday.

Congressional Democrats and Republicans appear further at odds now than perhaps anytime since September. Since then, Congress passed stopgap spending measures three times because it could not reach agreement on a long-term budget deal.

The most recent partial federal government shutdown was in 2013, causing thousands of Wright-Patterson civilian employees to be furloughed.

Michael Gessel, Dayton Development Coalition vice president of federal programs, said Tuesday he couldn’t guess what will happen on Friday.

“It is increasingly difficult to predict what Congress will do and the predictions change almost on an hour-by-hour basis,” he said. “There is similarly a very high level of uncertainty and we will not really know until the next few days what the chances are.

“I know it grows tiresome to hear, but yes, the bickering and intransigence between the parties appears to be growing and making legislation more difficult,” he said.

RELATED: Temporary funding prevents shutdown, hurts military, officials say

Big impact

The fallout from the lack of a fully funded defense budget damages national security, wastes money, and impacts government operations and employee morale, Gessel said.

Military leaders — including at Wright-Patterson — have decried temporary stopgap funding measures. They say they lower combat readiness, prevent the start of new programs, cap spending at the previous year’s levels and don’t eliminate reductions under the Budget Control Act of 2011, among the consequences.

Congress has authorized a $700 billion defense bill for the 2018 fiscal year that began Oct. 1, but has not yet passed legislation to fund it.

Wright-Patterson is the largest single-site employer in Ohio with more than 27,000 employees — the vast majority of whom are civilians — and touts a regional economic impact greater than $4 billion.

RELATED: Lack of defense budget raising concerns at Wright-Patterson

Two observers said they expect a fourth continuing resolution by Friday to keep the doors open.

This one will likely last into February or later, said Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“But a shutdown remains a real possibility,” he said in an email Tuesday. “Congress will eventually get to a budget deal, but it may take a few more weeks or months.”

Daniel R. Birdsong, a University of Dayton political science lecturer and a Washington observer, expects Congress to roll out a fourth short-term spending measure.

“I think (a shutdown is) unlikely because of the political question of who gets blamed for this,” Birdsong said in an interview.

RELATED: Ohio fighter jet unit heads to Baltic region

‘More combative’

Looming large in the budget battle are spats over immigration, funding for a southern border wall with Mexico, the future of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — which protected the young from deportation if they arrived in the United States as an undocumented immigrant — and even the alleged remarks made by President Donald Trump about Haiti and countries in Africa.

“It certainly seems to be more combative and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of relationship building between the Congress and the White House on big ticket items like immigration and tax reform,” Birdsong said in an interview.

Wright-Patterson spokesman Daryl Mayer said Tuesday the sprawling base has not received guidelines on who would be exempt from a furlough.

“We follow a very deliberative process and guidelines to determine what services, if any, would be suspended during any government shutdown,” he wrote in an email.

The last time the base shut down, active-duty military personnel stayed on the job.

Among civilians, exemptions were made for personnel involved with the protection of life or property, such as police, fire, medical services and airfield operations.

The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, one of the state’s biggest tourist attractions, would close until a funding deal is reached, a spokesman has said.

Ohio fighter jet unit heads to Baltic region

Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 9:42 AM


            F-16 crews from the Ohio Air National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing flew training missions out of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in August 2013 as their home runway at Toledo Express Airport was repaved. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF FILE PHOTO
F-16 crews from the Ohio Air National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing flew training missions out of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in August 2013 as their home runway at Toledo Express Airport was repaved. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF FILE PHOTO

Ohio’s only fighter jet wing has sent 12 F-16 Fighting Falcons to Europe as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, officials said.

RELATED: New flight controls added to B-17F Memphis Belle

The Toledo-based 180th Fighter wing deployed the fighter jets and 250 Ohio Air National Guardsmen to Amari Air Base, Estonia, in the Baltic region. The mission will last about three months, according to Staff Sgt. Shane Hughes, a unit spokesman.

RELATED: Vectren will sponsor Dayton Air Show three more years

The wing will train with NATO, regional countries, and other National Guard units, officials said.

Several F-16s remain at the Toledo base to fly training exercises and air defense intercept missions, Hughes said.

Air Force museum attendance drops after initial surge

Published: Tuesday, January 09, 2018 @ 5:10 AM


            Photographers follow the B-25 Missing Man formation salute to the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders in April 2017. The National Museum of the United States Air Force marked the 75th anniversary of the World War II mission against Japan. Of the 80 Raiders, Dayton native Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole is the last survivor and attended the ceremonies. TY GREENLEES / STAFF FILE PHOTO
            Ty Greenlees
Photographers follow the B-25 Missing Man formation salute to the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders in April 2017. The National Museum of the United States Air Force marked the 75th anniversary of the World War II mission against Japan. Of the 80 Raiders, Dayton native Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole is the last survivor and attended the ceremonies. TY GREENLEES / STAFF FILE PHOTO(Ty Greenlees)

Fewer people trekked to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force for the third consecutive calendar year, despite a surge of visitors the first year after a $40.8 million expansion opened in June 2016, figures show.

The museum reported 829,424 patrons in 2017, a 2.45 percent drop from the prior year. In 2016, 850,720 people came to the world’s largest military aviation museum and in 2015 attendance reached 859,780.

Figures include estimates for attendees at outdoor events.

Variables such as weather, gas prices and funding for school trips may impact year-over-year attendance, said museum director John “Jack” Hudson.

“I think that’s within the band of fluctuation that you might see based on these factors that we know exist,” he said, noting in the first year between June 2016 and May 2017 after the new expansion opened attendance “grew significantly” and the number of students experiencing educational activities has hit record levels.

Declining numbers of patron visits to the museum for the third calendar year drew initial concern from Tony Sculimbrene, executive director of the National Aviation Heritage Alliance.

“Any decline in attendance is something we worry about,” he said. “We want numbers to grow. We don’t want numbers to decline.”

RELATED: Air Force Museum ranks 3rd nationally on USA Today list

Officials are betting the opening a new B-17 “Memphis Belle” exhibit and three-days filled with activities in May will bring in thousands of people in 2018.

“I don’t know if this is the largest exhibit we’ve ever had, but if not, it’s right up there,” Hudson said. “This is a big, big deal.”

Sculimbrene expected a “good bounce” in attendance. “We’re going to get a bunch of people coming to Dayton because of that … but you can’t just stop with a single event or new building,” he said.

In recent years, attendance reached 1,146,087 in 2014, driven by large events, such as the now cancelled Freedom’s Call Tattoo. The gathering of music, fireworks and flyovers brought in tens of thousands of visitors for a one-day outdoor celebration.

Officials also noted starting in July 2015 the museum changed the way it counts visitors with the installation of a more precise counting method of people passing through the security check-in point. It also closed one entrance to the main atrium and stopped counting staff and volunteers.

Total number of events at the museum dropped between 2016 when it recorded 769 events, and 2017 which marked 617.

RELATED: X-15 moves into new hangar at museum

Getting the word out

In recent years, organizations that support the Air Force museum have made more of an effort to advertise and market the largest free attraction in Ohio, Sculimbrene said.

“What everybody recognizes more so than what I’ve ever seen before is you can’t just rely on people showing up at the front door of the museum,” he said. “Three years ago, I don’t think that awareness was there.”

The Tourism Ohio brand and Dayton area convention and tourism bureaus highlight the museum in advertising across the state.

“The museum is an asset that appeals to a multigenerational audience and embodies the Ohio. Find It Here. brand,” Tourism Ohio spokeswoman Tamara Brown said in an email, adding it was in featured in a state tourism commercial

“It’s a world-class, one-of-a-kind museum that draws hundreds of thousands of people every year which brings a lot of new faces into the community,” said Jacquelyn Y. Powell, president and CEO of the Dayton Convention & Visitors Bureau. “They’re coming here spending money on hotel rooms and dining in our restaurants.”

The museum has a yearly economic impact of about $40 million, according to previous estimates.

RELATED: Air Force Museum sees boost in attendance since new hangar opened

Museums also face more competition in the digital age.

“As we’ve seen the digital age grow, demands on people’s time has grown,” said Johnna McEntee, executive director of the Ohio Museums Association. “There are more demands on people’s time and they don’t have as much time to wander museum halls as they used to.”

To counter this, museums have engaged in more online programming and community outreach, she said.

In the year immediately after the Air Force museum expansion opened, Hudson noted attendance grew by double digit margins: 19.4 percent between June 2016 and December 2016 and 33 percent between January 2017 and May 2017.

The hangar is home to iconic aircraft such as President John F. Kennedy’s Air Force One; the X-15 rocket plane that flew nearly seven times the speed of sound; and the C-141 “Hanoi Taxi” that flew the first U.S POWs home from Vietnam.

Officials expect thousands to converge on the museum grounds May 17-19 to unveil the restored B-17 Flying Fortress “Memphis Belle,” which will anchor a new and large strategic bombing exhibit in the World War II gallery.

The museum has received indicators many will delay a visit until the unveiling of the Memphis Belle in May, museum spokesman Rob Bardua said in an email.

The World War II Flying Fortress bomber was the first to complete 25 missions over war-ravaged skies of Europe and return to the United States.

RELATED: Memphis Belle gets a makeover for upcoming debut

Air Force Museum Foundation Chairman Philip L. Soucy said the drop-in attendance was a concern but, like Sculimbrene, he said was not overly worried about the museum’s future.

“It’s definitely something we need to keep watch on,” Soucy said. “We’d like to see over a million visitors a year.”

Rising sales

While the number of patrons have dropped, sales at the museum’s gift shop, bookstore, ride simulators, food service and a movie theater were at or near an all-time high, he said.

“Our sales are increasing in spite of the fact we’ve had less folks coming to the museum,” he said.

Air Force Museum Foundation spokesman Chuck Edmonson said in an email final sales figures will not be available until later this year.

The foundation manages the businesses inside the museum. Proceeds have been used to pay for building expansions and some marketing promotions and activities, such as the Living History and Hollywood Film Series and magazine and digital advertisements.

In 2017, for example, the foundation and museum spent $116,000 on marketing activities and promotions, according to the museum.

The foundation led the fund-raising drive for the privately funded $40.8 million expansion in June 2016.

Virtual visitors

While the number of on-site visitors has dropped slightly, more people follow the museum on social media than prior years, Hudson noted.

For example, the number of Facebook followers jumped to 255,507 in 2017 compared to 235,337 in 2016 and 176,519 in 2015.

On Twitter, followers reached 40,300 in 2017, up from 30,895 in 2016 and 10,750 in 2015, figures show.

Impressions or reach of social media posts climbed to 22.5 million on Facebook versus 17.1 million the prior year. Twitter impressions were recorded at 1.8 million last year versus more than 1.9 million in 2016.

RELATED: Seven artifacts you can’t see at the Air Force Museum: A peak insde the storage building

Figures for 2015 were not recorded.

Among actual visits, 41 percent of patrons are from Ohio; 18 percent from bordering states; 31 percent from other states; and 5 percent from foreign countries, according to museum surveys. Five percent were unknown.

The typical visitor is 41 years old and male. More than two thirds of visitors never served in the military and 38 percent are first time visitors, according to museum surveys.

Tourism spending in Ohio reached about $43 billion in 2016, a $1 billion rise over the prior year, according to TourismOhio. The industry 427,000 jobs in the Buckeye State in 2016, a gain of about 7,000 jobs since 2015.

The state had 212 million visits in 2016 compared to 207 million the prior year. Average spending was $111 for a day trip and $380 for an overnight trip in 2016.

Air Force museum visitors

Here’s a snapshot of the number of visitors to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force for the past decade.

Starting in July 2015, the museum changed the way it counts visitors with the installation of a more precise counting method of people passing through the security check-in point. It also closed one entrance to the main atrium, officials said.

2017 - 829,424

2016 - 850,270

2015 - 859,780

2014 - 1,146,087

2013 - 974,044

2012 - 1,232,307

2011 - 1,192,119

2010 - 1,318,715

2009 - 1,277,364

2008 - 1,107,283

2007 - 1,154,096

SOURCE: National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

AFRL scientist scales highest peak in South America for research

Published: Wednesday, January 03, 2018 @ 6:10 AM


            Air Force Research Laboratory researcher Kevin D. Schmidt unfurls an AFRL flag on Mount Aconcagua in South America. CONTRIBUTED
Air Force Research Laboratory researcher Kevin D. Schmidt unfurls an AFRL flag on Mount Aconcagua in South America. CONTRIBUTED

“Horrifically fast winds” ripped open the small tent Kevin D. Schmidt barricaded himself in on a trek to reach the top of the highest mountain in South America that spans the border of Chile and Argentina.

Without shelter, Schmidt said he took refuge with a stranger in another tent to continue the climb with a team on the mountainside.

Schmidt, 28, a research engineering psychologist at the 711th Human Performance Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, was thousands of feet up on a climb of Mount Aconcagua to learn more about the effects of hypoxia, or lack of oxygen at high altitudes, on humans’ ability to think and perform.

RELATED: Air Force Marathon launches sign up for 2018 races

The winds “were pretty hostile,” Schmidt said in a recent telephone interview from Santiago, Chile. “We met a lot of other people on the mountain and we were all climbing together and my tent wasn’t the only one to rip open. It’s pretty crazy.

“I had to rely on other people on the mountain,” he added. “Actually, it was an incredible show of humanity. … You just instantly have this bond when you’re in hostile environments that everyone is just trying to get through it together.”

The summit to Mount Aconcagua, at about 22,800 feet, is the highest point in the Western Hemisphere. He made it to just under 20,000 feet when the decision was made to return to base camp because the dangerous winds persisted on the final day of the ascent.

“The biggest thing that I learned about this mountaineering stuff is the mountain lets you summit,” he said. “You can’t plan everything. I usually like to have everything spelled out and no matter how much training we do … how much working out we do, how much our bodies are ready for this, you’re always at the will of the mountain.

RELATED: ‘Chilly Willy’ lands at Wright-Patt, will be used for research

“You learn that quickly when 80 mile-an-hour winds or whatever rips your tent apart and you’re stuck there without shelter,” the Ohio native added. “That was the big take home for me.”

The research, which was not sponsored by AFRL, was to determine how to better train for high-altitude environments and how the mind and body are affected in low oxygen environments. He was on the mountain for nine days last month, and was scheduled this week to climb the Cascade Mountains in Washington state for more research.

“You can feasibly see situations in a cockpit where having better performance in these low oxygen environments might really be lifesaving,” Schmidt said.

He used AFRL-developed technology to make the trek in South America, he said. The gear included BATDOK (Battlefield Airmen Trauma Distributed Observation Kit), which transmits vital data on how the body is performing to a wearable or a small wireless computer; GPS smart watches from an exercise and physiology lab called Signature Tracking for Optimal Nutrition and Training; and a battery of cognitive tests from the Biophysiology of Stress Laboratory. The facilties are within AFRL.

RELATED: AFRL researchers hunt for clues in F-35 stealth fighter issue

Schmidt, who planted an AFRL flag when he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, prepared for this latest ascent spending three-hour sessions on a Stairmaster with 70-pound backpacks, running and bike rides, according to AFRL.

The Air Force researcher and Wright State University graduate started a five-year program this fall to earn a doctoral degree to study brain behavior and cognition in the psychology department at Northwestern University near Chicago. He’s enrolled in a Department of Defense program called Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART).

Through SMART, he also earned a master’s degree in a neuroscience program at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.

“I’m in school to develop my skills so once I graduate I can start doing formal work for the Air Force again trying to develop these technologies for the Air Force,” he said.