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Flight Operations at the Air Force Academy

Image of cadets on the runway with Piper Super Cub in the background
The United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) is committed to being a good neighbor. The support of El Paso County, the City of Colorado Springs and the surrounding communities is vital to the success of our mission. USAFA strives to minimize the impact on our neighbors, while safely accomplishing the flying training mission. The following information is designed to provide an understanding of Air Force Academy flying operations. It is also intended to facilitate an appreciation for how, where, when and why we fly. A FAQs page is provided to answer the most frequently asked questions concerning USAFA's operating airspace and its impact on the surrounding community.

Safety is the number one priority for USAFA leaders, instructors, and cadets. Our Airmanship programs have the best safety record in Air Education and Training Command and Air Force Academy instructor pilots have thousands of flying hours and years of experience.

Flight Training and the USAFA Mission
The United States Air Force Academy is one of the four premier military academies in the United States. Every year, approximately 1,000 USAFA Cadets graduate as lieutenants in the Air Force, and other services, to lead our Airmen in defense of our national interests. To prepare them for this immense task, these men and women undergo four years of intense academic, military, and physical training. As part of that mission, the Academy's Airmanship programs are designed to expose, motivate and challenge cadets to become successful leaders in the world's greatest Air Force. The Airmanship Programs, including soaring, parachuting and powered flight, provide a foundation for flight discipline and expose cadets to the rigors and fundamentals of flying. These programs provide the foundation for personal and professional discipline required to succeed as an Air Force aviator, a path approximately half of USAFA cadets pursue upon graduation. The 306th Flying Training Group, under the 12th Flying Training Wing, headquartered at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, provides management and oversight of the USAFA Airmanship programs.

Compatible Land Use and Encroachment
There was very little development surrounding the Academy when Colorado Springs was selected as its location in 1954. Urban growth between 1980 and 2000 brought businesses and residential neighborhoods closer to the Academy’s borders. During this development, the Academy and the City of Colorado Springs partnered to inform developers of mission impact and ensure compatible land use.

The support of the City of Colorado Springs and surrounding communities is vital to the success of the Air Force Academy. We seek to partner with all stakeholders in the local community to ensure USAFA can continue accomplishing its mission while minimizing the impact to the surrounding community. view maps

Flight Operations
Powered Flight operations began at the USAF Academy Airfield in 1974 and saw only small changes in flight paths until 2012. However, increasing regional demand for use of the airspace along the Front Range of Colorado gradually rendered USAFA's airspace structure increasingly at odds with other airspace users, notably Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) controlled traffic arriving and departing from regional and major airports in both Denver and Colorado Springs. By 2012, airspace conflicts had reached a level warranting a complete redesign of USAFA's airspace structure in order to ensure safe separation between Air Force flight operations and other regional flight operations. In response to this changing landscape a working group was established that included Air Force and FAA representatives. This group coordinated and developed the safest possible approaches, departures, training areas and flight patterns for USAFA operations. Decisions from the working group were implemented in early 2013. The redesigned pattern and corresponding departure/arrival corridors resulted in a greater concentration of flight training activity over neighborhoods that had not previously been exposed to a high volume of air traffic.

The redesigned pattern is more standardized, predictable, and in line with Air Force pilot training. This predictability and standardization reduces the overall risk of Air Force flight training at the USAF Academy while increasing the collective safety for our civilian neighbors living in the vicinity of the airfield.

In an effort to reduce the impact to the community, north flow departure to northeastern training areas were rerouted northbound over I-25 before turning east over Baptist Road in June of 2014. Additionally, Bullseye Auxiliary Airfield was reestablished, significantly reducing the volume of aircraft flying multiple patterns at the Academy. view maps

Air Installation Compatible Use Zone
In 1999 and again in 2005, the USAF conducted an Air Installation Compatible Use Zone (AICUZ) Study for the US Air Force Academy. The purpose of an AICUZ is to promote and inform compatible land development in areas off base that may be affected by military operations on base (e.g. aircraft noise). One part of an AICUZ study identifies noise contours associated with the specific flight operations of a particular air installation, using a metric called the Day-Night Average A-Weighted Sound Level (DNL), which covers noise levels over a 24-hour period. The recommended land use compatibility for residential development is 65 DNL. In areas where noise contours exceed compatibility levels, corresponding development is either discouraged or measures are recommended to reduce the noise signature.

A 2-year recurring analysis, called a noise validation study, re-validates noise impacts of flight operations on the community. The current noise validation study was conducted in 2015 in order to ensure the noise-specific component of the Academy's 2005 AICUZ study remained valid. It concluded that all noise contours associated with the Academy's flight operations remained confined to Academy property. This does not mean that noise does not go off the installation, but based on the DNL taken from current airfield operations, noise from these operations do not exceed the compatibility land use levels.

Noise or Overflight Complaints
The USAFA Public Affairs Office manages the Noise Complaint Program. Once a complaint is received, officials log the complaint into a database and review each complaint for anything out of the ordinary. The majority of the aircraft noise complaints come from areas directly in the flight paths of the Powered Flight Program pattern and departure/arrival routes. If specific complaint details indicate something out of the ordinary, a thorough investigation ensues. If the investigation reveals willful violation of established flight procedures and directives, Air Force leadership will address it accordingly to ensure such events do not reoccur. To submit a complaint, please complete the noise complaint form and email it to PA.COMREL2@usafa.edu If you are unable to complete the form online, you may call the USAFA Public Affairs Office at (719) 333-7746 and leave a detailed message. Please include the time, date, location, direction of flight, and description of aircraft (color, markings, etc.)