Academy changes flying patterns, opens auxiliary airfield; Primary focus is safety of neighborhoods, cadets

  • Published
  • By Melissa Porter
  • Academy Public Affairs
The Academy has changed its flying patterns and opened an auxiliary airfield to reduce air traffic above neighborhoods east of the Academy by 30 percent, officials said during a town hall meeting May 29 at a local school.

The changes come in the wake of a previous town hall meeting late last year, when residents raised concerns about aircraft safety and noise, said Col. Joseph Rizzuto, commander of the 306th Flying Training Group.

"We heard you loud and clear last November," he said to the crowd of several dozen attending the meeting at Discovery Canyon Campus School. "We've looked at as many options as we could look at and selected the best options to reduce impact to neighborhoods while keeping the safety of our pilots, cadets - and you - as our primary focus."

Opening Bullseye Auxiliary Airfield, just north of Ellicott, will decrease air traffic over northern Colorado Springs, where many at the town hall reside.

"We'll reduce congestion near the Academy, but will still use the pattern," Rizzuto said. "I want to emphasize there will be still be aircraft flying over those neighborhoods."

Rerouting northbound flight departures from the academy to a flight training area east of Black Forest consists of aircraft climbing 1,300 feet above I-25 before turning east above Baptist Road.

Previously, departing aircraft turned east at lower altitudes when climbing over the more densely populated neighborhood on the city's north side.

"This route was selected to blend aircraft noise with noise on the interstate and Baptist Road,' Rizzuto said. "Depending on traffic, we anticipate the road noise will be at a higher level than our aircraft."

The colonel also discussed the upcoming increase in flying operations to take place this summer between 7 a.m. and sunset, a time nearly half the academy's 25,000 annual sorties are scheduled to occur and when academy officials take the vast majority of noise complaints.

Some north side residents at the meeting expressed concern about the safety of flights above their homes or said not enough has been done by the Academy to decrease their concerns. A few said they supported the Academy's flying program.

David Cannon, the Academy's communications director, offered to have members of the Academy's public affairs staff visit north side residents once the flight changes have been in place for a month. He also agreed to explore forming a committee of local residents and Academy officials to address and find solutions for the future.

"Our promise to you is that we want to do everything we possibly can to mitigate your concerns about noise above your neighborhoods," he said.

The flights are part of the Academy's Airmanship Program, consisting of powered-flight, soaring, and the parachute, or "jump," program. These programs expose cadets to modern warfare, prepares them to become officers and helps them understand how the Air Force uses and projects airpower, Rizzuto said.

"Think of our flying programs as the construction projects that build the foundation for those leaders who will be the foundation for the security of our nation," he said. "Any construction project is going to make some noise. We're no different."

Bullseye Auxiliary Airfield closed to Academy flights last year due to budget cuts. The field opened again after coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration, county and city officials, the Army, Congressman Doug Lamborn and the Academy, Rizzuto said.