Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Jet Noise: The sound of freedom?

Low flying military plane over Wales
In April North Wales farmers called for a ban on low flying RAF military aircraft because of damage to livestock. The RAF route was also used by the United States as well as other countries. Now the United States Air Force is seeking to fly low over our mountains here in New Mexico claiming there will be no damage. Been there and done that. They have tried this before. Before they invaded Iraq the second time. Who are they planning on invading this time? Iran? North Korea?

Low flyovers means 500 AGL. That is 500 feet above ground level. And the ground level in Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado, like in North Wales, changes rapidly and drastically. That is rather the point. They want to train pilots of C130 and CV-22 Ospreys to fly such variable terrain. I have flown in a C130. That lumbering troop and cargo carrying aircraft does not change directions rapidly, let alone pull out quickly. And the Wales route was approved for one set of air craft and opened to others - and other nations as well. Besides what happened to simulators. People don't die when a pilot makes an error in a simulator.

The routes the Air Force proposed for these "training" missions before included the Philmont Boy Scout Ranch, the Val Vidal Wilderness and Wildlife refuge (you cannot even hike in that area some months), the tops of chair lifts at Angel Fire, Taos and Red River Ski areas. Also effected were the migratory flyways of the Canadian Snow Goose, the Sandhill crane, and the endangered Whooping Crane. Our area has become a refuge of Red Tailed Hawks, Golden and Bald Eagles and Great Horned owls which are threatened in other areas.

And tourists. Let's not forget their migratory patterns. They would definitely be endangered. The mountain communities of Angel Fire, Taos, Red River, Raton, and Las Vegas, New Mexico plus Trinidad, Pagosa Springs and Crede, Colorado depend on tourists for revenue. They flock to the mountains for bird watching, fly fishing, golfing, hiking, hunting, skiing, horseback riding, and just plain old peace and quiet. All would suffer from noisy aircraft flying low.

In addition to tourists we have ranchers with cattle and buffalo. And large herds of antelope, Big Horn Sheep, mountain goats, deer and elk. And humans. As an Air Force officer's brat I have lived on bases and at the end of runways. When in the third grade near Ft. Briggs in El Paso, Texas the subject on the playground all too frequently was another crashed jet, another lost parent. One jet crashed just a half mile from our house. We biked to a hill to overlook the crash site. The pilot did not eject because he was trying to guide the malfunctioning plane away from our school.

You can have choices sometimes in flat open land but not when a mountain suddenly appears in a cloud.
One of Larson's Best