Air Force looks at training options

Capt. Laurence Van der Oord of Cannon Air Force Base's public affairs said Friday that the Air Force is not terminating any training but has terminated its Environmental Assessment on the Low Altitude Training Area (LATA) proposal to fly training missions over areas of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado.

The Air Force Special Operations Command leadership concluded that they would not be able to reach a Finding of No Significant Impact through the current Environmental Assessment, according to an Air Force press release.

The Air Force wanted to fly CV-22 and MC-130J aircraft on the low-level training flights. In Colorado, the flights would have been over the southern, southwestern and central mountain areas.

"We're terminating the current Environmental Assessment action, and we're moving on to conduct a deeper analysis on a broader scope of wing training requirements," Van der Oord said.

According to Van der Oord:

  • The 27th Special Operations Wing continues to have a requirement to train aircrews in low altitude flying. "Currently this training is, and will continue to be, accomplished through the use of established Military Training Routes, Special Use Airspace, Visual Flight Rules, and excess capacity from other bases," Van der Oord said.
  • Those methods adhere to FAA regulations and Air Force Instructions. However, they provide less than optimal training and will not be sufficient as Cannon continues to receive its full complement of aircraft. "That is why we put forth a proposal to establish a new LATA," Van der Oord said.

Officials at Cannon say the next steps are to examine and define all of their training requirements and then decide what type of environmental assessment will be done to meet those training needs.

The examination will take into consideration new technology and lessons learned in Afghanistan, according to 1st Lt. Stephanie Schonberger.

The Air Force hopes to complete the examination by early 2013, according to Van der Oord.

A few Colorado public officials, including Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., expressed that coordination with local communities and other airspace users is important for the training plans of the Air Force.

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