Tuskegee mayor: T-100 manufacturing facility will lift region

Tuskegee Mayor Tony Haygood sits in the back seat of an F-16 aircraft at Montgomery's Dannelly Field before a flight over Tuskegee and Moton Field. [Photo Credit: Echo Boom Media]

Sitting in the back seat of an F-16 jet on a flight over Tuskegee, Mayor Tony Haygood looked down at Moton Field and envisioned the historic airfield’s future as the production site of the U.S. Air Force’s next jet training aircraft.

“From that height, it is amazing how you can see the whole layout of things at Moton Field and where the runway expansion would be,” Haygood said. “There’s plenty of space for it, and we’ll be doing some other improvements.”

Earlier this year, global aerospace company Leonardo selected Moton Field as the manufacturing site for its T-100 advanced trainer jet if the Air Force chooses the aircraft as its next-generation trainer. The project would bring 750 jobs to the airfield where the pilots of the Tuskegee Airmen received their training.

Haygood, who is traveling to Italy with an Alabama delegation to tour a Leonardo aircraft factory this week, said an in-depth look at the company’s manufacturing operation will assist Macon County’s preparations for the Tuskegee facility.

“This is like advance preparation that gives us an opportunity to see, hear and understand how we need to get ready,” he said.

Made In Alabama caught up with Haygood in Tuskegee before the Alabama team departed so he could share his insights on the Leonardo T-100 jet trainer project planned for Moton Field. Here’s what he said.

Q: What would the Leonardo T-100 manufacturing facility mean for Tuskegee and the region?

A: It would be a tremendous boost to this community. For Tuskegee, it would be the largest project we’ve had in our history. It would be a big boost for the entire economy of south central Alabama and would impact the entire state as well. For us, it would mean high-quality jobs, and it would trigger a revitalization of our entire economy.

Q: How have Tuskegee and Macon County been preparing for a project of this magnitude?

A: We have been working within the region, with Auburn, Montgomery and other cities, to position ourselves as a viable site for economic development. Having the runway at Moton Field, and the space around it, allows us to pursue this project. We’re capable of expanding the runway to 8,000 feet. We have water service at the site. We have a major interstate – I-85 — right there and CSX railway there. So we have the basic ingredients in terms of transportation and location.

Q: Can the area provide the workforce for the Leonardo T-100 facility?

A: We can provide a quality workforce, and we will have assistance from the state. Go back to the Tuskegee Airmen. People didn’t think they could fly advanced aircraft, but given the opportunity and the training, they not only flew, they excelled. It’s really the same story today. Give people the opportunity, give them the support, and we can develop the workforce and the expertise that is needed.

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Republished with permission from the Alabama NewsCenter.