Tuesday, December 01, 2015

First large-scale exercise set in military air training area

Military airplanes are taking to the skies this week for the first large-scale exercise in a training area over the Northern Plains. The exercise in the 35,000-square-mile Powder River Training Complex is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. Bombers, fighter jets and refueling tankers will be practicing maneuvers in the airspace over the Dakotas, Montana and Wyoming, including Campbell County. After years of consideration, the Federal Aviation Administration in March approved quadrupling the training airspace, making it the largest terrestrial training space over the continental United States. Advocates say it will boost military training while reducing costs, but some people in the region worry about disruptions to towns, ranches and civilian flights. The training area expanded from 7,000 square miles to 35,000 square miles, stretching roughly 300 miles between Billings, Montana and Bismarck, North Dakota. It includes portions of northwest South Dakota, northeast Wyoming and much of southwestern North Dakota. The majority of the space would be over southeastern Montana. The expansion fueled a lot of controversy early on, especially among ranchers in both South Dakota and Wyoming who were concerned about the effect the loud noises from the jets would have on their ability to use personal planes to check on herds and spray crops. “We treasure our peace and quiet,” said Marvin Kammerer in 2010, who ranches near Ellsworth Air Force Base in southwest South Dakota. “If it’s so safe, then why don’t they just fly over Rapid City at midnight and let them hear the sound of freedom?” Another factor that people in the area worried about the effect were those in the aviation business. Some worried that those traveling for business would be required to wait a few extra hours at times when the Air Force would redirect their flights if they conflicted with training times...more

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