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WASHINGTON – The Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station won’t be losing four of its 11 planes after all.

Instead, it will lose only two C-130 cargo planes this year and will get another one back in fiscal 2014, Air Force officials announced Thursday.

The moves won’t affect the level of personnel at the 914th Airlift Wing, the Reserve unit at the base, which has about 1,200 reservists.

But it will mean that the number of planes at the base will be higher than expected even as the other unit at the base, the Air National Guard’s 107th Airlift Wing, transitions to a drone mission.

The additional planes will be used as backups for planes that are in maintenance, said Sgt. Kevin Nichols, a spokesman for the 914th.

A year ago, the Air Force said it planned to cut four C-130s from the Niagara Falls base as it planned to eliminate the 107th’s mission – a move that would have put the unit out of business.

But legislation pushed forward by then-Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul, D-Hamburg, and other lawmakers forced the Air Force to redraw its planned cuts to the Air National Guard.

As a result, the Air Force announced plans to keep more C-130s in service and to give the 107th a new mission flying drones. The details of that mission, including personnel levels, are expected to be announced later this month, said Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“The decision to return two of the C-130s to Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station is critical to maintaining the readiness of our pilots,” Gillibrand said, adding: “I am disappointed that, as announced, the Reserve unit will not receive any additional personnel for the planes.”

Still, the restoration of the planes is a blessing in bad times for the federal government, noted Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y.

“At a time when our defense operations are facing significant cuts, it’s great news that Niagara’s 914th Airlift Wing will keep two more C-130s than was initially expected,” Schumer said

email: jzremski@buffnews.com