Wright-Patt senior leader of major aircraft programs steps down

The Wright-Patterson civilian senior executive in charge of overseeing aircraft programs from the next generation jet trainer to foreign military sales has stepped down.

Kevin W. Buckley, 56, a retired colonel, led the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Mobility Directorate as program executive officer for seven-and-a-half years.

A successor has not yet been chosen.

RELATED: Aerospace giants complete on Air Force jet contract

In an interview with the Dayton Daily News, Buckley said he decided to step aside because the Air Force had recently offered him jobs at other bases, but he wanted to start a career in the private sector after 35 years working in the federal government.

He said he is currently job hunting.

“There’s definitely some opportunities out there,” the Washington Twp. resident said. “I’d like to stay in the Dayton region, but it’s not guaranteed.”

RELATED: White House seeking new Air Force Ones

For a time, Buckley oversaw the effort to replace aging Boeing 747-200 presidential jets, or Air Force One and designated VC-25s in the Air Force. In 2017, the program spun off under a separate office under the watch of a two-star general after criticism President Donald Trump leveled at the planes’ price tag. The Air Force later reached a deal with Boeing to purchase two 747-8 jetliners at an undisclosed cost. The presidential jumbo jets are set to take flight in 2024.

Buckley said spinning off oversight was the “right idea” because of the demands on his time to manage 300 programs.

RELATED: Air Force responds to Trump over concerns with Air Force One costs

With about 1,800 employees at four bases across the nation, the Mobility Directorate manages cargo, training and special duty aircraft, among designated responsibilities.

“I am continually amazed at the quality of people that the Air Force can hire, both military and civilian,” he said. “It’s not just a job; it’s a calling, it’s a vocation.”

The retired Air Force colonel spent about 17 years at Wright-Patterson of a 35-year career in uniform and civil service. Among other jobs, he worked on reconnaissance programs, the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, classified work on sensors and was a student at the Air Force Institute of Technology.

“Based on all the time I spent here, I consider Dayton home,” the Philadelphia native said.

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