RAPID CITY, S.D. -
Expansion of an Air Force training facility has some ranchers worried how it will impact their operations.
The South Dakota Stock Growers Association, who represent more than a thousand ranchers, has sent a letter to Ellsworth Air Force Base Col. Gentry Boswell requesting additional flight information for exercises being run in the Powder River Training Complex.
The letter states that they feel Ellsworth has not met their commitment in providing easy access to private pilots who operate within the boundaries of the complex.
The Air Force response:
The Federal Aviation Administration requires all licensed pilots to review and be aware of any Notices to Airmen, or NOTAMs, pertaining to their flight path, prior to flying. These NOTAMs, including those concerning flights from Ellsworth AFB, can be found on a website maintained by the FAA, at https://sua.faa.gov, or at https://pilotweb.nas.faa.gov, or by calling 1-800-WXBRIEF at any time. The https://sua.faa.gov website in particular provides real-time airspace activation information and is an excellent resource for pilots seeking information on the Powder River Training Complex status.
In addition, members of the base have been in constant communication with many of the ranchers, communities and organizations impacted by the PRTC over the years leading up to its ultimate approval by the Federal Aviation Administration March 24, 2015. Efforts to mitigate the impact of the complex and inform those under the new area have only increased since the 28th Bomb Wing began flying operations in the airspace September 2015. We are committed to being good neighbors with those in the local and regional communities. We will continue to work with these organizations and expand our reach to make sure all applicable parties receive the information necessary to safely operate in the airspace, and to limit our interference while ensuring we continue to train and prepare to be ready to provide combat airpower, anywhere in the world at any time.
Information on the new airspace complex, including a brochure for pilots looking to fly in the area, a map of the space, and methods to find flight information can be found on the base website at www.ellsworth.af.mil/prtc.asp. In addition, the 28th BW Public Affairs office can be reached from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, or at firstname.lastname@example.org for additional questions and coordination not directly associated with flight details.
According to the Executive Director for the Stock Growers Association Silvia Christen, that information is critical to keep both military and civilian pilots safe in the sky.
"It's a real safety concern for us because, like I said, those ranchers need to be up in the air on a daily, sometimes twice a day basis to check their operations, and without that information, critical information out where those big military aircraft are, it just leaves us concerned that there is a safety concern there", said Christen.
She adds that the association fully supports Ellsworth's mission in the area and wants to provide the best training opportunities for Air Force pilots, and the goal of the letter is simply to improve the dialogue between the military and the ranching community.
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