The Powder River Military Training Complex, a 28,000-square-mile block of airspace over South Dakota, Wyoming, North Dakota, and Montana, will go into effect Sept. 17.
The FAA published a notice March 31 announcing that it had adopted the Air Force’s Record of Decision establishing the new airspace complex. AOPA is urging general aviation pilots to become familiar with Ellsworth Air Force Base’s new airspace complex, and to plan ahead for any operational changes that it may require.
The Air Force will be required to conduct public outreach to all known aviation interested persons, organizations, and offices within 50 miles of the complex 60 days before the first planned scheduling and use of the airspace, said Melissa McCaffrey, AOPA senior government analyst for air traffic services.
The Powder River Training Complex will consist of four primary military operations areas (MOAs) designated Powder River 1, 2, 3, and 4. They will be connected by corridors, or Gap MOAs A, B, and C. There are 19 public-use airports and 20 more private-use airports that underlie the affected airspace.
Other conditions the Air Force must satisfy before the implementation date include establishing communications coverage—subject to the FAA’s acceptance—in new airspace areas prior to their use. This communication coverage is intended to ensure the ability to "recall" the airspace for civil IFR use, McCaffrey said. Also, procedures must be established and in place so controlling agencies can recall military aircraft from the low MOA airspace whenever necessary to allow IFR aircraft access to and from public-use airports underlying the MOAs.
In its final environmental impact statement, the Air Force listed actions it plans to take to mitigate conflicts with nonmilitary flight operations. To facilitate use of the airspace, it said, it would announce all training activities in the complex via the notices to airmen system, and announce training activities scheduled outside of published times of use no later than four hours in advance of use.
The list of mitigation actions also included, among other items, plans to allow air traffic control to vector IFR traffic through MOA sections by notifying ATC when altitude segments are no longer needed for training.
Based on its "independent review and evaluation," the FAA determined that the Air Force’s final environmental impact statement “adequately assesses and discloses the impact of the airspace expansion.”
"Accordingly, the FAA adopts the FEIS, and takes full responsibility for the scope and content that addresses the proposed expansion of airspace for PRTC," it said.