The U.S. Air Force began promoting an expansion of training airspace over New Mexico and Colorado in 2010. SLVEC participated in the initial public comment as well as responding to the Environmental Assessment released in September of 2011. (See documents listed below)
Summary of the Air Force Proposal:
The US Airforce proposes to fly the CV-22 Osprey and the C-130 airplanes at altitudes of 300 feet above ground level. They will fly at night and at speeds up to 350 MPH. These maneuvers include in-flight refueling. There will be three flights per night over the mountains and valleys of a 60,700 square mile area of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. In addition, the area will be used for the training of pilots controlling attack and serveillance drones.
The Air Force has announced its postponement of pursuing this project. See the following news items.
27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
6/5/2012 - CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- In September 2011, the 27th Special Operations Wing at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., released a Draft Environmental Assessment analyzing the potential impacts of conducting low-altitude flying training in Colorado and New Mexico. The need for the low-altitude training still exists, however, emerging training requirements based on lessons learned in Afghanistan as well as training requirements identified in the 2007 "Air Force Special Operations Command Assets Beddown at Cannon AFB" Environmental Impact Statement now overlap with the need for the proposed low-altitude training.
In light of these emerging training requirements and the many public comments received on the Draft Environmental Assessment, the Air Force is evaluating whether or not a more detailed analysis is appropriate.
Currently, the Air Force is refining its special operations flying training requirements. Once these requirements are fully defined, the Air Force will determine the appropriate environmental analysis, including whether it should transition to an Environmental Impact Statement. At this point, we expect to make that determination in early 2013.
The Air Force received comments from approximately 1,600 people, agencies and organizations during the Draft Environmental Assessment public comment period in late 2011 and thanks all citizens, Tribes, Pueblos, federal, local and state agencies, elected officials and private organizations for their inputs.
The Air Force remains committed to being good stewards of the environment and good neighbors, which includes utilizing the National Environmental Policy Act analysis process to make well-informed decisions.
Also see the press release from Udall's office
Udall Acknowledges Air Force Decision to Postpone Plan for Low-Altitude Flights
Mark Udall welcomed the Air Force's decision to indefinitely delay a plan to fly low-altitude training missions over portions of southern Colorado, the central mountains and the Four Corners region.
"I want to ensure that pilots and crews receive the training they need to perform their combat missions, but this training plan needed to be better coordinated with local communities and other airspace users," "I appreciate the Air Force's decision to not move forward at this time with its Low Altitude Tactical Navigation training based on the feedback it received from community members in southern Colorado, the central mountains and the Four Corners region. We need to make sure that the Air Force's training plans are crafted in consultation with the military in Colorado and the communities they would affect."
Udall has been actively engaged with the Air Force about this issue since mid-2010 when the 27th Special Operations Wing, based in New Mexico, announced plans to use the airspace over southern Colorado, the central mountains and the Four Corners region for low-altitude flight training exercises. The low-altitude flight training exercises would have involved training exercises performed at altitudes as low as 300 feet above the ground and generated significant concern among local residents and Colorado military units that also use the airspace.