Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Air Officials Criticize Military Flights Plan; A South Carolina Air Force Base Wants Military Aircraft to Train as Low as 500 Feet around Augusta

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Air Officials Criticize Military Flights Plan; A South Carolina Air Force Base Wants Military Aircraft to Train as Low as 500 Feet around Augusta

Article excerpt

Byline: DENA LEVITZ

AUGUSTA -- A proposal that would allow military aircraft to train at altitudes as low as 500 feet is drawing fire from operators of aviation facilities in and near Augusta.

Although nowhere near approval, the proposal by Shaw Air Force Base, located near Sumter, S.C., essentially would expand the military operations area to include air space now used by airports in Augusta, Swainsboro, Waynesboro and Millen. Augusta aviation officials first heard about the proposal last month.

The so-called Bulldog operations area floor would drop from 10,000 to 500 feet in certain portions, creating a noisy situation for residents and making it difficult for civilian airplanes to take off and land, critics say.

An air-traffic control official says it would severely hamper instrument landings by civilian aircraft during bad weather.

A spokesman for Shaw says, however, that the impact on civilian aircraft would be minimal.

"The bottom line is that we are more than willing to work with the civilian air space community," Lt. Bryan Cox said. "We want to make sure this is mutually beneficial. We understand their concerns, but we're talking about a small number of missions."

Since Shaw began looking into the expansion in 2004, Ed Ratigan, the aviation program manager for the Georgia Department of Transportation, has expressed concern over the toll it will take on local airports, particularly in Swainsboro and Waynesboro, which have spent several million dollars upgrading facilities.

"I just have a problem with [the proposal] because it's denying access to these communities," Ratigan said. "This has a tremendous economic impact, and I don't think Shaw has looked at that, nor have they looked at alternatives."

In several letters he has written to Shaw officials -- and forwarded to U. …

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