Air Force Wants More Nevada Sky

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As aviation groups and pilots battle it out with the federal government over 3,000 square miles of airspace around Washington, D.C. (deadline for comments on the proposal -- docket number 17005 -- to make the Air Defense Identification Zone permanent is today), the Air Force is proposing adding a 2,400-square-mile military operations area in eastern Nevada that, by some estimates, would push the total amount of Nevada airspace under some kind of restriction to about half the state. And while Nevada's sparse population and generally great flying weather makes it ideal (in military eyes) for this kind of work, there is a price to be paid for getting out of the way of low-flying jets and Nevadans may have had enough of paying it. The proposed MOA could disrupt some badly needed economic development projects in the prosperity-challenged area. The Air Force, which wants the area for F-16 pilot training when Hill AFB in Utah is testing cruise missiles, wants to put the floor of the MOA at 500 feet but the local officials of White Pine County are trying to firm up development of a couple of coal-fired power plants with smoke stacks reaching 750 feet. Also on the drawing board are a wind generation plant and power lines that could all pose hazards to the jet jockeys. Air Force spokesman Jerry Angus told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the area would only be used eight weeks out of the year and the airspace restrictions could be adjusted to accommodate the power projects. He also said it would have minimal impact on GA operations, something questioned by Ely Airport manager Dan Callaghan. "To the general aviation pilot, the (restricted military area) looks like a no trespassing sign," Callaghan told the Review-Journal.