GA Pilots Take On Military In N.M.

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New Mexico has some wide-open skies, but apparently there is not enough room there for all the military and civilian pilots who want to fly. The U.S. Air Force wants to add 700 square miles to the 2,600 square miles now used by the F-16 Falcons based at Cannon Air Force Base. The airspace expansion would mean rerouting about 40 civilian flights per day, and intrude onto GA routes between Albuquerque and Roswell. "They've grabbed up so much airspace, it's going to be dangerous for small, civilian aircraft," U.S. Pilots Association President Steve Uslan told The Albuquerque Journal. "And that's a long way around, and that means a lot of fuel and a lot of time wasted." The Air Force also wants to conduct supersonic flights as low as 5,000 feet agl. The existing airspace no longer suffices to train aircrews in all of the tactics they will be expected to use in combat, the Air Force says. Two recent midairs have involved fighter jets colliding with small GA aircraft -- in 2000, an F-16 from Moody Air Force Base, Fla., collided with a 172, and on Jan. 18, a T-37 from Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, collided with an Air Tractor crop-duster over Oklahoma. In both cases the civilian pilots were killed, and the Air Force pilots ejected and survived. A final decision about the airspace is expected from the FAA in October.