Air Force delays low-level flights in Colorado, NM


DENVER | The Air Force said Wednesday it will indefinitely delay plans to fly low-altitude training missions over parts of New Mexico and Colorado.

Officials at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., will examine the training requirements for the base’s aircraft and then decide what kind of environmental review process to undergo, 1st Lt. Stephanie Schonberger said.

The aircraft that would make the proposed training flights are based at Cannon.

“We’re taking a step back from the whole proposal to take a look at our training requirements,” she said. The examination will take into consideration new technology and lessons learned in Afghanistan, she said.

The Air Force hopes to complete the examination by early 2013, Schonberger said. The environmental review would begin after that.

Public comments submitted for earlier reviews of the plan will be taken into consideration in the next environmental review, Schonberger said.

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 have nine different aircraft (at Cannon), and each one of those aircraft has unique training requirements,” Schonberger said.

Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado first announced the delay.

“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,” he said in a written release.