|SD Stockgrowers Request Flight Information from Ellsworth|
|The South Dakota Stockgrowers Association sent a request to Ellsworth Airforce Base this week requesting more safety information be provided to private pilots within the Air Force’s Powder River Training Complex (PRTC). The expanded Air Force training area increased military flight traffic over parts of South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming where hundreds of ranch pilots also operate small aircraft.
“Stockgrowers Association understands the importance of training our military pilots, but we want to ensure that rural, ranch pilots have access to information that protects everyone’s safety in the air,” explained Bill Kluck, President of the SD Stockgrowers Association. “The Air Force committed to making sure that flight information is made available to pilots and rural communities, but we do not believe that they have followed through with that in a very effective way.”
The expanded Powder River Training Complex was approved and became an active training area for the Air Force in mid-2015. The Stockgrowers Association has continued to voice concerns about the safety of those ranch families who use small aircraft to manage their ranching operations, and the potential impact to rural airports. The increased flights of large, fast military planes has increased the risk to those small pilots who share their airspace and live below.
In the final plan approved by the U.S. Air Force and the Federal Aviation Administration, Ellsworth officials committed to communicating with pilots of small aircraft regarding airspace occupancy, and accommodate reasonable requests for large aircraft to avoid flights that could impact ranching operations for things such as calving or other seasonal considerations.
SD Stockgrowers Assoc. requested that Ellsworth officials contact all pilots registered with the FAA within the four state training area with information that can be used to determine real-time flight activity for military aircraft in the airspace, and direct contact information for flight data from Ellsworth Air Force Base including a phone number. Additionally, the Association requested that Ellsworth authorities provide information to the general public regarding temporary avoidance areas.
“Our office was able to find airspace maps of the military flights in the expanded area with help from Senator Thune’s office and have done what we can to distribute the information, but we’re frustrated that the Air Force has not contacted these pilots directly,” said Kluck. “These rural pilots and communities are learning to live with the added flights and training exercises. We’re just asking for additional information and resources to make sure everyone’s safe.”
The South Dakota Stockgrowers Association was established in 1893 as a grassroots organization of independent livestock producers in South Dakota. Today we represent more than 1000 ranch families and our mission has remained unchanged, “to promote and protect the South Dakota livestock industry”. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 605-342-0429.