April 2023 ACTION ALERT and update

This update was sent to our mailing list on April 13, 2023. You can subscribe here.

Thank you for your interest in opposing expanded military training over the Chiricahuas, Peloncillos, and other areas in the Tombstone Military Operations Area (MOA). This is an update of what is happening with the Air Force proposal.

ACTION ALERT — As you may have heard Arizona Senator Mark Kelly recently made a statement that he’d like to see a continuous air space for military training stretching across southern Arizona. We obviously oppose that and would like to flood Kelly’s office with letters asking him to rethink this and consider the impacts on the unique biodiversity here, as well as our human population and our economy. Please consider sending Kelly a letter about this. Example letters can be found here.

In addition, there is a new nuisance flight report form available on our website for reporting nuisance flights. This form will generate emails of your report to the relevant military agencies (Davis-Monthan, the Arizona Air National Guard, and the FAA) with a copy to you as well. This information will also be logged in a database that we are maintaining so that it can be matched up with flight information received from FOIAs.

Here are some important things to know about reporting nuisance flights:

  • A flight doesn’t have to be breaking regulations to be a “nuisance,” and you don’t have to determine whether or not the flight was in compliance, so please report every incident.
  • If you don’t have the exact information on the type of plane, altitude, etc., just give what you have and don’t worry about it. (We may be able to corroborate and refine the details with flight information received from Freedom of Information Act requests.)
  • More reporting is better than less.
  • If you receive a response from an agency, you are invited to forward it to us at peacefulchiricahuaskies@gmail.com.
  • Reporting makes a difference! Some of us have received responses, though they are sporadic, that have led to helpful conversations.

On April 7, 2023, Kim Vacariu presented about these issues in a session titled “Too Close for Comfort” as a part of the Sew What forums. If you missed that, the presentation slides are here and contain a wealth of information.

One of the topics covered in this session was new information we have learned about Military Training Routes (MTRs), which include VRs and IFRs. These special training routes are separate from the MOA, have their own regulations, and are jointly administered by the military and the FAA. Many of the very low flying flights here are believed to be conducted under these separate VR regulations. Here is the FAA Guide to Low-Flying Aircraft.

We are exploring the rules and administration of the MTRs in more depth, but have learned a few important things. First, because the MTRs are jointly administered by the FAA, this gives us an additional place to which complaints can be reported. In addition, there has been success in other areas in securing “Avoidance Areas” for special areas like ours that have unique biodiversity and residential considerations. We will be exploring this further and talking with our elected officials and the relevant government agencies to see how we might proceed on these topics.

Finally, we want to update you on the process of the proposal to expand the MOA and military training in our area.

Currently, the USAF is preparing a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). They are consulting with a variety of experts and agencies as a part of this process, and we have sent information packets to many of those agencies to make sure they are aware of our concerns. We are expecting the draft EIS to be released this fall, at which time there will be an additional comment period. This will be a very important time, and we will notify you and hold public meetings to help people prepare their comments. After that, there will be another review period, a final EIS, and a final decision. This is expected to go into late 2024 or later.

If you’d like to donate to support this work, you can do so through the Chirichua Regional Council, indicating that your donation is to be used for opposition to increased Air Force training. Our work is all done by volunteers, and funding is used for direct costs like printing and postage.

Thank you for your support, and keep those nuisance flight reports coming!

For more information, visit peacefulchiricahuaskies.com or contact us at peacefulchiricahuaskies@gmail.com or 520-369-3503.

Peaceful Chiricahua Skies is a local coalition of organizations, businesses, and individuals in the Chiricahua-Peloncillo area and other parts of the “Tombstone MOA” proposal that are opposing expanded military training flights in this area.