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Aircraft of the Academy's airmanship programs
The Cirrus Aircraft T-53A is a small, single engine aircraft at the Academy that replaced the fleet of Diamond DA-40 T-52s in the spring of 2012. The 557th Flying Training Squadron, which supports the T-53s and the Academy's powered flight airmanship program, moved its training areas to avoid conflicts with civilian airplane traffic over the Interstate 25 corridor. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Academy moves powered-flight airspace to avoid conflict

Posted 1/31/2013   Updated 1/31/2013 Email story   Print story


by Don Branum
Air Force Academy Public Affairs

1/31/2013 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Go East, young man.

That's not quite the same advice offered to 19th-century settlers moving to Colorado, but none of them had to fly in airspace shared by two major airports.

New training areas for the Air Force Academy's powered flight airmanship program took effect in December, moving operations several miles east of the previous areas.

The Federal Aviation Administration claimed the previous training areas, near the Interstate 25 corridor between Monument and Castle Rock, to create GPS-guided navigation routes for corporate aircraft, said Ted Goodlin, a next-generation implementation specialist with the FAA.

The airspace over Interstate 25 between Denver International Airport and Colorado Springs Airport is a busy corridor, Goodlin said.

"Finding the sweet spot on where to locate the satellite-based navigation routes is a difficult task," Goodlin added. "That's what generated the change."

Cadets spend five to 10 minutes longer flying to and from the new training areas because they're further east, said Lt. Col. Andrew Julson, director of operations for the 557th Flying Training Squadron, which oversees the powered flight airmanship program.

"We've lost some training time due to the change," he said. "What we're looking at is changing our syllabus and refocusing the program so that instead of a breadth of exposure, we narrow the focus to preparing cadets for a solo flight."

Julson said that in the year he's been director of operations, he's fielded three requests to move the Academy's airspace. He recognized that the airspace near Interstate 25 would only become more congested as Colorado Springs Airport grows.

"Instead of having to fight (for airspace) and having to continually reprint training publications at a huge cost, we decided we're going to do this in a fashion that will preserve Academy training airspace for 20 years," Julson explained. "We designed a pattern from scratch.

"Given the constraints we had, we looked at how we could design an airspace that would allow us to be the best neighbors we can, along with building something that could withstand the changes that will go on with the Colorado Springs community in the next 20 years," Julson said. "We've developed safer procedures that can handle more volume without upsetting our neighbors."

The training areas overlay rural parts of Colorado in a semicircular pattern, stretching southeast past the Bullseye Auxiliary Airstrip, east near Calhan and north near Elbert.

The new training areas may also reduce the number of noise complaints that the Academy receives. The Academy previously received some complaints from residents in Larkspur, said Rich Droll, who oversees the Academy's noise complaint program for the Public Affairs office.

While investigations often determined that the aircraft generating complaints didn't belong to the Academy, moving the Academy's training out of Larkspur airspace should reduce the volume of complaints received, Julson said.

Aircraft will fly higher than previously as well -- between 8,500 feet and 11,500 feet -- which should serve to further mitigate noise complaints, Julson said.

"Aircraft noise is less than 60 decibels from that height," he said. "The noise generated from Interstate 25 makes more noise than our aircraft at 8,500 feet, and that's with the engine at full power, so when we cruise, you can't even hear us."

Julson noted more aircraft are flying over State Highway 83, which runs parallel of Interstate 25 from Black Forest into Denver.

"The additional volume might raise concerns, but we've been doing this now for a little more than a month, and we haven't received any complaints," he said. "We intentionally designed (our routes) to fly over low-population areas and to have our noise masked by highway traffic."

Cadets in the powered flight program conduct nine sorties of 90 minutes each, for 13.5 total flying hours, in T-53 Kadet II single-engine aircraft. Those who demonstrate proficiency are allowed to take a solo flight at the end of the program, Julson said.

7/31/2013 11:11:10 AM ET
Planes are flying at only 1000 AGL and coming right over the house which is on the 10th fairway.
Pine Creek Resident, Pine Creek neighborhood
3/3/2013 12:16:59 PM ET
Contact the USAFA Public Affairs Office - Community Relations to express your concerns. 719-333-7731
Northgate Resident, Northgate
2/19/2013 5:02:00 PM ET
To Palmer Divide Resident if you live south of State Road 404 or west of Meridian Road then you live outside the new powered-flight areas. There are other training programs in the area that use airspace near Monument though and are much more ... liberal in their use of altitude.
Don Branum, Air Force Academy
2/13/2013 2:09:37 PM ET
We've been wondering why there were so many planes flying over our neighborhood the last few months - now we know.I guess the pilots aren't following the 'rules'. We get planes flying less than 500 ft AGL over the Palmer Divide - sometimes a lot lower then that. We get planes roaring all day long en route - not following highway 83 but vectoring right over our neighborhood at all kinds of headings. Until I was this article I thought a new VORTAC had been installed near by. I called the FAA once when a plane flew less than 50ft off the deck. They just laughed - saying that we live in the county so tough - deal with it. We are more densely populated than Larkspur. It wasn't clear in the article where the official practice area was but we get planes doing practice turns stalls and spins with very loud recoveries right over head. We are only a mile East of 83.I'm all for keeping it safe through the corridor and proud to have the Academy here but not happy taking the brun
Palmer Divide Resident, North Black Forest Palmer Divide
2/2/2013 11:06:50 AM ET
Completing this program and soloing after only 9 previous flights with no previous flight experience was one of the highlights of my cadet career. Good to see that it will be around for a long time.I still remember contacting COS when practicing divert procedures and hearing the controller tell me Your traffic is an MD-80 on final. Following him in made for an interesting landingI'm curious as to why the DA-40s got swapped out so quickly. IIRC they were practically brand new when I went through the program in Spring 2010.
Pwd Flt Grad, Mt Home AFB ID
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