ROSWELL, N.M. — U.S. Air Force officials continue trying to ease concerns over the proposed expansion of military training airspace in southeastern New Mexico.
Local business and government leaders fear that the expansion could affect the residents’ lives and the local economy, the Roswell Daily Record reported .
Holloman Airspace Manager Juan Lavarreda Perez and Ed Chupein, Air Force deputy chief of operational training systems and infrastructure, held meetings on Wednesday and Thursday in Carlsbad, Artesia and Roswell after nudges from U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich to clear up some concerns and answer questions.
The Air Force is looking to expand the airspace to meet modern aircraft and flight training needs, something that is necessary as the Holloman Air Force Base is facing a shortage of F-16 fighter pilots, Chupein said.
Officials are looking at airspace around Roswell, Artesia and Carlsbad known as the Talon Military Operating Area as one option for the expansion.
They are also considering the area west of White Sands Missile Range as another possible choice.
The ideas presented are preliminary and will be revised, Chupein said.
Roswell International Airport Director Scott Stark predicts that expanding Talon could have an impact on U.S. Navy pilot training missions that have been held in Roswell in the past and have brought in millions of dollars in revenue to the local economy. He also anticipates that expansion would force American Airlines flights to and from Dallas to alter their routes.
Others were concerned on the impact the proposed expansion could have on emergency helicopters to and from area hospitals and how the noise would affect bats in Carlsbad Caverns and on the Lesser Prairie Chicken.
Chupein assured the audience that the Air Force has reached to the U.S Navy over use of the Roswell airspace for training and has the Navy’s input, which will be considered as part of the plan.
He also invited folks to continue sending their comments via mail or email for about two more months before a federal contractor develops the draft environmental impact statement.
Information from: Roswell Daily Record, http://www.roswell-record.com