The U.S. Air Force held a public meeting yesterday in Animas, NM, about their proposal to expand military training in our area, and we wanted to share some of what happened there.
It is noteworthy that this meeting was the only one near the Tombstone MOA, although it was held outside the actual MOA and over a hundred miles from some of its residents. Many have asked the U.S. Air Force to schedule more accessible public meetings and to increase the time to submit public comments on scoping.
Despite the inconvenient location, an estimated crowd of more than 100 people attended the meeting. Some were disappointed in the format, which seemed designed to discourage group discussion of the issues. The Air Force organized the meeting as an open house with six tables and posters. There was no formal presentation, although participants asked many questions at individual stations. There was also an opportunity to provide written comments which many participants took advantage of.
Some of the individual questions and responses reported by attendees are shown below.
The next step in this process is for the public to submit comments on the public scoping phase by March 4. CRC will be submitting comments, and the Peaceful Chiricahua Skies coalition has sample comments and other resources available here.
Questions and answers from meeting (paraphrased here because there was no recording — further information may be available on the Air Force project site and may also be requested in scoping comments):
Q: What types of planes will be flying over if this proposal goes ahead?
A: F-35s and F-16s will be able to use Tombstone for supersonic airspace – i.e., as low as 5,000 ft AGL (above ground level). It might be that the F-35s from Luke AFB use the supersonic airspace at Tombstone when weather is bad (i.e. thunderstorms) at other airspaces and forces them to use Tombstone.
A-10s can’t reach supersonic speeds, but will use low-level airspace down to 100 ft AG.
F-16s and F-35s will be able to use the airspace for subsonic speeds down to 500 ft. AGL (not 100 ft AGL).
Q: How many flights will be done? At low level? At night? With chaff? With flares?
A: Representatives couldn’t give any numbers of F-35 and F-16 sorties in the Tombstone MOA.
Q: What are the tangible benefits that our community can expect to receive if this plan is approved?
Q: How will the AF plan on reimbursing the communities for lost revenue from reduction in tourism?
A: The AF representatives said they have have never reimbursed any communities for that.
Q: Have you consulted with NPS, USFS or BLM before formulating your proposals?
A: No. Also, these agencies, as well as USFW, would need to sign on as cooperating agencies.
Q: How can we expect to assume that the Air Force will stay within the rules under the new plan when we see frequent violations already?
Q: That doesn’t work. I’ve done it many times.
A: Then you need to get your elected representatives to file complaints for you. [Information on contacting your elected representatives is available here.]