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Academy participates in community town hall

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- U.S. Air Force Academy and 306th Flying Training Group leadership attended a town hall meeting hosted by the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance to discuss flight training and a joint land use study June 4 at the Classical Academy's east campus.

Attendees were given information on the history of academy flying programs, issues resulting from encroachment, as well as plans for the Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment joint land use study for Pikes Peak region military bases.

The joint land use study is a strategic plan with specific implementation actions to ensure civilian growth and development are compatible with vital training, testing, and other military operations. 

Col. Kevin Lamberth, USAFA vice superintendent, spoke about the importance of the Academy Airmanship program and how the world's greatest Air Force starts in Colorado Springs.

"Our Airmanship program helps us with two key words in our mission statement ... to inspire and motivate," Lamberth said. "We want to inspire and motivate our cadets through aviation. We want to wet their appetite to pursue aviation careers in our Air Force. That's what sustains our national defense."

Academy leadership also focused on the importance of addressing local resident's concerns about noise and safety.

"We know some of you have concerns about noise, and you may have safety questions as well," Lamberth said. "I understand that and we take those concerns seriously, but please understand how important what we do is for the nation."

The town hall meeting was an opportunity for the community to understand the challenges the Academy faces in regard to airspace and for the Academy leadership to better understand the concerns of local residents.

Col. Steve Burgh, 306th FTG commander, specifically addressed airspace redesign, flight safety, and noise abatement efforts.

Burgh said the Academy and the FAA worked together to redesign the academy training airspace with the goal of eliminating aircraft traffic conflicts and creating safer and more efficient flight procedures.

"I've been very impressed with how the airspace is set up, but it did shift the noise over different surrounding communities," Burgh said. "...the airspace is very effective and efficient for the number of students we have to train."

Since June 2014, two efforts have been initiated by the Academy to mitigate noise over the surrounding communities.

The first was the opening of Bullseye Auxiliary Air Field. Burgh explained the annual cost to the Academy is 730K, but it greatly reduces flight pattern congestion. The second effort was a northern departure change. The traffic flow to the northeast training areas was routed along I-25 northbound, then east of Baptist Road.

While the changes have helped with air traffic, the Academy faces a new challenge with temperatures rising throughout the summer months.

A powered flight program training schedule modification is required to provide morning and evening latitude to complete flight-training requirements while avoiding cockpit temperatures that may exceed 130 degrees Fahrenheit in the afternoons.

"I can tell you this is a necessity when we talk about inspiring and motivating," Burgh said. "When its 110-120 degrees in a cockpit there is no learning going on at that point and it could become a safety issue."

A noise mitigation plan for flights occurring before 7 a.m. will be in place, requiring aircraft to depart along the I-25 corridor and climb to cruise altitude prior to turning toward the training airspace.

The second half of the town hall meeting was devoted to residents who were given the opportunity to voice their concerns. Each resident was given an answer by the most qualified subject matter expert present that evening.

"We are here to listen, to hear you... We genuinely want to be good neighbors, and we are going to be partners in the area Joint Land Use Study, but I humbly ask that you try and understand that as we're trying to be good neighbors we have a mission to execute," Lamberth said.

Those with questions or concerns may call the Academy's Public Affairs office at (719) 333-7731.