The Air Force has a good argument for expanding its existing “special use airspaces” over which F-16 fighter pilots train: When the airspaces were set up 30 years ago, they were designed for aircraft with significantly different missions and performance capabilities than the supersonic F-16 Fighting Falcons that fly out of Holloman today.
Unfortunately, by not hosting a public meeting on the proposed changes near Silver City — one of the planned expansions would bring the fly-overs closer to Silver City and over larger portions of the Gila Wilderness — Air Force officials opened the door to speculation and increased opposition. Some Silver City residents and at least one environmental group have already stormed through, and are denouncing both the planned expansion and Air Force secrecy.
To their credit, Air Force officials held “open-house style scoping meetings” in Truth or Consequences, Las Cruces and Carlsbad in mid-September. And they are still accepting written comments.
But state Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City, expressed concern in a letter to Holloman officials that Silver City – “the most populated area in the Gila which would be most affected by the addition of thousands of F-16 flights” – was not selected as a site for a public meeting on the proposed expansion of airspace.