Wednesday, October 8, 2014

UPDATE: Will Carson's CAB fly over public lands?

Posted By on Wed, Oct 8, 2014 at 1:18 PM

High altitude helicopter training over federal lands was the subject of a public meeting Tuesday night. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • High altitude helicopter training over federal lands was the subject of a public meeting Tuesday night.
UPDATE: Fort Carson called late yesterday to correct its previous statement confirming only 70 aircraft as part of the Combat Aviation Brigade have arrived at the post. A spokeswoman says 90 aircraft have arrived.

——-UPDATE POSTED WED., OCT. 8, 2014, 1:18 PM————

Fort Carson just got back to us via email to answer a few questions about the Combat Aviation Brigade's status. A spokesperson confirmed construction will take another 2 1/2 years, that only about 70 helicopters are at the post, and that two hangars aren't yet complete. As for air space limiting the use of drones, the post says, "Air space will not restrict Fort Carson from basing more Unmanned Aerial Systems in the future."

The email went on to say:
Additionally, Opening lines of communication with our neighbors is always a positive event. Fort Carson is committed to "flying friendly," both when our 4th Combat Aviation Brigade helicopters are training and when we host training for units from other installations. We strive to keep noise issues and other disruptions to a minimum by enforcing Fort Carson policies and procedures that regulate minimum altitudes for flying around populated areas.

- We will continue to listen to our community and work through any noise pollution issues that arise. We have a fly-friendly policy when working with our community to balance training with respecting our neighbors.

- As always, concerned community members are encouraged to direct complaints to the Fort Carson Community Relations office at (719) 526-9849, 1256 or 1246. We take every complaint very seriously and strive to address concerns in a timely and thoughtful manner.
————— ORIGINAL POST WED., OCT. 8, 2014, 11:46 AM ———————

As we've previously reported, ("Hard landings," March 19, 2014) Fort Carson is looking for a permanent arrangement with the Bureau of Land Management to conduct High Altitude Mountain Environmental Training over land southwest of Colorado Springs.

We didn't make the public meeting last night in Canon City, but peace activist Bill Sulzman showed up. We've found him to be a reliable observer, so we'll let him tell you what happened, as recounted in an email to us this morning:
Susan Gordon and I attended the scoping meeting in Canon City. I was pleasantly surprised by both the turnout (more than 30) and the precise questions used to challenge both the BLM and the Army. There were questioners from the ranching community, the educational community and a variety of residents living in remote locations in the county. Many have already experienced excessive noise from helicopters. Technically they did not allow for statements but many worked statements into their questions.

At several points both BLM spokespersons and Army presenters seemed flummoxed by the questions from a very well informed crowd. A couple of Colorado Springs politicians attempted to score points by insinuating that those asking questions and expressing opposition were somehow unpatriotic. It didn't fly. Reminded me of some of the Pinon Canyon EIS hearings. In short there was a major push back against the proposed expansion of air space and ground locations. 
Sulzman goes on to tell us that he took the opportunity to talk to Carson officials about progress of the Combat Aviation Brigade, which "fully" activated in May this year, according to Carson.

He reports:
• The CAB construction is nowhere near completion. At least 2.5 more years before it's done.
• Same goes for the helicopter fleet. Only 70 of the expected 120 are there so far. Part of the holdup is that they still have to construct two more hangars.
• It is clear they still want to add the big armed drones but are stymied by lack of air space.

"Expect more hearings to free up that space," he adds. "One of my sources was clear that both current drone training and expanded plans for drone training favor PCMS. He lamented that the landing strip at PCMS needs to be expanded. Probably another hearing on that to come."

We've asked Fort Carson to comment on the lag time in bringing the CAB up to speed and will update if and when we hear anything.

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