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Training to Boost Air Traffic

By Jane Moorman
Valencia County News-Bulletin
    Air traffic over the Meadow Lake area east of Los Lunas will increase soon when the 58th Special Operations Wing at Kirtland Air Force Base begins new training missions.
    The 58th Wing is planning to use an area 3.5 miles southeast of Meadow Lake as a drop zone for C-130 cargo plane rescue and special operations training. It also plans to use a second area a mile farther east as a landing zone for military helicopter training.
    The zones are being designated Centerfire Drop Zone and Centerfire Helicopter Landing Zone after the landowner, Centerfire Property.
    Lt. Col. Ronald Medley, director of operations for the 58th Wing, says the proposed site will alleviate many safety issues that the flight crews deal with when using the drop zone on the busy Air Force base.
    When flight training begins over the Centerfire Drop Zone, Valencia County residents will notice an increase in cargo planes flying over the Manzano Mountain foothills. The 58th Wing is estimating six to seven drops being made daily, five days a week, for approximately 42 weeks out of the year. The missions will be during both daylight and night.
    "The average amount of time the aircraft is airborne during a training mission is three to four hours, but time over the drop zone will be in 30-minute blocks," Medley said.
    The planes will be approaching the flight zone from the south because of flight restrictions.
    "Because of the mountains to the east, and flight restrictions over Meadow Lake to the northwest, our training flights will approach the drop zone from the south," Medley said. "We will be coming in from the former Burris Ranch over the less populated area.
    "A realistic training flight has the C-130 coming in at a low altitude, 500 feet above the surface, for the aerial delivery, then we climb back to a safe flight altitude."
    The Air Force has procedures in place to reduce the noise over Isleta Pueblo, especially during tribal ceremonies. "We avoid the air space over the pueblo when they have notified us of ceremonies," said Medley.
    During Medley's two years as director of operations, he says the 58th Wing has not had any complaints about noise from Meadow Lake residents.
    However, if the increased air traffic becomes a noise problem, he said the Air Force will work with the community to alleviate the problem.