WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) has pressed the U.S. Air Force to improve its plan for the expansion of the Powder River Training Complex (PRTC) airspace so it better addresses the concerns of local communities and businesses.
These improvements will help the Air Force keep the commitments it made to protect the commercial and safety interests of surrounding communities and local aviators, according to the senator.
Heitkamp called on the Air Force to provide better and more information to general aviation pilots, and to make sure aviators, as well as businesses that use the airspace and impacted medical facilities, have direct access to real-time information about Powder River training activity.
“Making sure our aviators, as well as local airports, businesses, and hospitals have a direct line to Air Force operations for Powder River is absolutely critical,” said Heitkamp. “While I’m encouraged by the Air Force’s commitment to heeding the economic concerns of surrounding communities, we must make sure aviators and businesses can easily access the information they need and get their questions answered. That’s why I’m asking the Air Force to take additional steps to make sure it is proactively working with these groups, and remedying their concerns. If the Air Force falls short of its commitments, businesses and livelihoods could be threatened — and that’s unacceptable. I’ll continue working together with the Air Force, the FAA, and our local towns and businesses to strike the right balance between strengthening our national security and allowing our regional businesses to flourish.”
Heitkamp is calling on the Air Force to:
- Better communicate with general aviation, including pilots and businesses. The Air Force needs to proactively reach out to pilots and businesses so they have direct access up-to-the-minute information on Powder River activity, and can get their questions answered without having to go through unneeded bureaucracy, she noted.
- Address airspace for non-emergency medical flights. The Air Force already has a plan in place to help emergency medical flights quickly exit the region, but it must also reach out to medical facilities throughout the four-state region and prioritize access for non-emergency medical flights that transport doctors to rural hospitals to make sure access to care is not negatively impacted.
- Improve flexibility for local businesses. Any Memos of Understanding with area businesses must contain sufficient flexibility to allow regional businesses using airspace to adapt to changing situations, such as weather. The Air Force must also proactively reach out to Bowman Airport officials to make sure its overall plan contains sufficient flexibility to allow for the expansion of the facility.