Eight southwestern North Dakota counties would experience air traffic interruptions under a plan by the Air Force to use 28,000 square miles of air space for bomber training runs.
North Dakota’s Aeronautics Commission acting director Kyle Wanner said the Air Force’s proposed Powder River Training Complex over the four corners region of North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana isn’t likely to be any more popular now than it was when it was first trotted out six years ago.
“If I had a crystal ball, I would say our response will be similar to the last time, against it,” Wanner said.
The proposal involves airspace over Bowman, Slope, Grant, Adams and Hettinger counties and the southern portions of Stark, Golden Valley and Billings counties in North Dakota.
Wanner said the B-1B and B-52 Stratofortress bombers from Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota and Minot Air Force Base would use the space a minimum of three hours up to six hours a day, 240 days a year.
Planes flown by visual — as opposed to instrument-certified pilots would be under some restrictions during those hours. There are corridors inside the bomber airspace for primary commercial hubs.
While the airspace above the increasingly busy Dickinson airport is not included, Wanner said air traffic in and out of Dickinson would be affected.
The new $14 million, jet-capable Bowman Regional Airport is in a proposed low-activated range, meaning the bomber space would occupy from 500 feet up to 12,000 feet altitude.
Wanner said the Air Force’s plans come at a time when local air traffic is busier than ever because of the oil activity and is only expected to increase with improvements in Bowman.
He said the commission will talk with the state’s aviation industry at an upcoming symposium in Grand Forks and comment to the Federal Aviation Administration by the April 3 deadline.