Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Mike Cooper: Pilot shortage good for Vance, Enid

Vance Air Force Base and Enid are well-positioned for the next few years, given the Air Force's pilot shortage, city of Enid military liaison Mike Cooper told Vance Development Authority at its meeting Tuesday morning at city hall.

The Air Force is short more than 700 pilots, Cooper told the board, good news for a community that is home to a pilot training base.

"We are in a growth area these days in pilot training," Cooper said.

Cooper recently attended Air Education and Training Command Commander's Civic Leader Group meeting at Luke AFB, Ariz., where pilots train to fly both the F-16 and the Air Force's newest fighter, the F-35.

He said there is discussion about not only increasing the number of pilots trained at Vance and other undergraduate pilot training bases, but also establishing "surge capacity at other bases, but "that is a few years out."

The shortage is the result of increased hiring of military pilots by the nation's airlines, said VDA member Dan Ohnesorge, manager of Enid Woodring Regional Airport.

Cooper said other issues discussed at the commander's group tour were the future of the aging T-38 trainer, as well as the federal defense budget and sequestration.

Ohnesorge briefed the group on construction of a new ramp area at Woodring that will accommodate both military and commercial aircraft. He said the work is on schedule and the ramp is due to be completed in January.

Most of the cost of the project will be covered by funds from Oklahoma Strategic Military Planning Commission, which recently voted to give the city $166,000 for the construction, and $289,644 from the Federal Aviation Administration. Ohnesorge said the final cost to the city would be $30,000 to $40,000.

Cooper, who is chairman of the OSMPC, said the group would ask the Legislature for $3 million in 2017, to help fund projects at the state's five military facilities. He said the group also plans to seek legislation protecting air space statewide. In 2010 the "Aircraft Pilot and Passenger Protection Act," was signed into law. That legislation regulates obstructions near public airports and military air fields, as well as requiring notification of the state Aeronautics Commission, as well as the Strategic Military Planning Commission, if anyone proposes construction of a structure greater than 150 feet tall either in close proximity to an air field, or in areas used by military aircraft.

The OSMPC, Cooper said, would like to see similar restrictions in place statewide. This shouldn't place a hardship on anyone planning a wind farm, for instance, Cooper said, since the state Aeronautics Commission, OSMPC and the military respond quickly to inquiries from developers.

Source:  http://www.enidnews.com

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