Military flights proposal

This map shows where the Maryland Air National Guard is requesting to conduct low-level military training flights in and around Potter County.

Local officials and organizations are seeking more information about a proposal that could disrupt the peace and quiet to which Potter County has grown accustomed.

“Potter County Commissioners Nancy Grupp, Barry Hayman and Paul Heimel have invited representatives from the Maryland Air National Guard to attend a public forum to share details of the unit’s planned low-level military aircraft training flights over a wide swath of northcentral Pennsylvania and answer questions,” said an announcement from commissioners on Potter County Today, the county’s news website. “The request is in response to input the commissioners have received from organizations and citizens who are concerned about the impact of the plan on tourism, the environment and the local way of life.”

More than two years ago, the Maryland Air National Guard (MDANG) requested the U.S. Department of Defense grant use of airspace over parts of Potter, Tioga, McKean, Elk, Clinton and Cameron counties for low-level military training flights.

According to the proposal, the flights would allow pilots in A-10C Thunderbolt II (Warthog) jets “to accurately train and prepare for current and future conflicts in an integrated, year-round and realistic training environment.”

The proposal projects flights would be one to hours per day, two to three times a week for up to 170 days a year. MDANG says no more than four aircraft would be in the airspace at any one time. The flights could be anywhere from 100 feet above ground to 7,999 feet above sea level; training is currently limited to 8,000 feet above sea level and higher.

“So that would be slightly more than two of the ‘Old Hickories’ on top of one another. And that’s pretty darn low,” said Potter County Commissioner Barry Hayman at a past commissioners’ meeting.

The commissioners’ request comes after MDANG’s Draft Environmental Assessment (DEA) released this month said the flights would have “no significant impact” on the region.

The draft report says the proposal “would have less than significant adverse effects on airspace management, noise, land use, biological resources, cultural resources, safety, and socioeconomics” and that it “would not increase noise levels by more than 1.5 A-weighted decibels...or generate individual acoustic events loud enough to damage hearing or structures.”

However, it concludes the proposal “would have the potential for long-term minor adverse effects on the noise environment.”

The DEA is open to public comment until Dec. 15 by emailing by emailing ngb.a4.a4a.nepa.comments.org@us.af.mil. The report can be found at https://www.175wg.ang.af.mil/Duke-MOA-Low/ or at the Coudersport or Galeton public libraries.

The PA Wilds Center is also urging MDANG to conduct public meetings in all affected counties and is asking residents and organizations to sign a letter requesting such.

“There is concern that the ANG has not done adequate outreach to educate the public on the proposed Duke Low MOA and the potential impacts. There is also concern that the issuance of a ‘Finding of No Significant Impact’ would be premature,” said Ta Enos, PA Wilds Center CEO.

To read or sign the letter requesting public meetings, visit https://bit.ly/pa-wilds-low-moa-letter.

Enos said in the release that she’s aware some see the request and signing the letter as “anti-military.”

“I can say unequivocally that is not what this is about. We are a hugely patriotic region and respect and value our military. But there is potentially a lot at stake for rural PA with this proposal, and it is important for us to ask for more due diligence on it,” said Enos.

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Advisory Council got updates about the flight proposal during a virtual meeting Wednesday, Oct. 17. Minutes from that meeting should be available at a later date at www.dcnr.pa.gov/CNRAC/Pages/default.aspx.

In a 2019 response to the proposal, DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said, “The proposed activity would drastically change the character of this region and the numerous state parks and forests that shape its unique conservation landscape and wilderness.”

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