Holloman Air Force Base officials say their array of flight training areas in southern New Mexico is outdated and that some need to be expanded, reshaped and relocated — changes that would have jet fighters flying over sparsely populated rural areas not now used for that purpose.
Air Force officials scheduled public meetings this week in Carlsbad, Truth or Consequences and Las Cruces to receive public input on proposed changes to airspace “available for current and future pilot training.”
The changes, which will be assessed in an upcoming environmental impact statement, are being considered as F-16s now based at Hill Air Force near Ogden, Utah, are being shifted to Holloman, in Alamogordo, to make room for new F-35s at Hill.
Holloman conducts initial and refresher F-16 training for pilots who are newly stepping into the cockpits of the front-line fighters or returning to that duty.
A Holloman announcement of the project says its goals include maximizing training time, minimizing transit time for aircraft to fly to and from training areas and limiting impacts to civil aviation.
With the elimination of six options deemed unsatisfactory, two other options that would make substantial changes to Holloman’s current training areas remain under consideration. A third alternative would leave things the way they are, but the Air Force says that wouldn’t meet its needs.
One of the two alternatives still under consideration would expand an existing 2,125-square-mile flight area in the countryside south of Roswell in southeastern New Mexico to add 1,581 square miles. That additional air space is generally east of Artesia and south of Carlsbad.
The other alternative under active consideration has several parts. It would redraw the boundaries of an existing 3,082-square-mile training area northwest of Truth or Consequences,…