By Ryan Lengerich
The Air Force has released a report outlining the environmental consequences of a proposed air space expansion.
The 421-page environmental impact statement outlines anticipated effects of Cannon Air Force Base’s New Mexico Training Range Initiative, which would expand military airspace to 3,300 square miles from 2,600 square miles. The proposed expansion would allow pilots to fly lower and faster an additional 15 nautical miles to the west into Lincoln County and to the east toward Portales, its boundary about 5 miles west of Floyd. Expansions into Fort Sumner to the north and Chaves County to the south are also proposed.
Other changes proposed in the expanded areas include bringing the lowest altitude pilots can fly down to 500 feet above ground; and allowing pilots to fly at supersonic speeds at 10,000 feet above sea level, instead of 30,000 feet.
The public will have about two weeks to review the report before a series of hearings before a military judge.
According to the report, the expansion would have “some airspace and noise consequences and no noticeable effects on other environmental resources.”
The report has been in production for about year.
“There is a lot of research taken before we can go forward with any type of expansion,” said 1st Lt. Jennifer Geeslin of Cannon Public Affairs. “The whole reason that we do such a thorough environmental impact statement is so that we can take in all the concerns of the environment and ensure if this proposal does go forward and get approved that it will have minimal effect on the environment.”
According to the report, the current airspace is not conducive to realistic operational training for a full range of F-16 missions.
Geeslin said a series of public hearings will be held with members of the 27th Fighter Wing, Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base, Va., and a military judge. Citizens can ask questions or voice concerns about the report.
Hearings will be held in Roswell, Santa Rosa, Fort Sumner and Clovis from Jan. 24-28.
The report can be accessed at Cannon’s Web site:
Geeslin said citizens can request a copy by calling Cannon public affairs at 784-4131.
Cannon officials hope the initiative is given final approval by the Air Force and the Federal Aviation Administration by October.