AOPA is encouraging members who fly in Alaska to study the Air Force’s proposal to base two squadrons of new Lockheed-Martin F35 Lightning II fighter aircraft at Eielson Air Force Base, and to participate in public hearings scheduled for Sept. 21 through 23 in North Pole, Delta Junction, and Fairbanks.
According to the draft Environmental Impact Statement released Sept. 4, the Air Force proposes to house 54 of the new fighter aircraft at Eielson, which is located 25 miles southeast of Fairbanks, Alaska. Members may attend the hearings and submit formal comments on the proposal until Oct. 20, as provided below.
Eielson Air Force Base’s "strategic proximity" to the Asia-Pacific region and the Arctic make it the preferred alternative for the base, which would see new aircraft arriving starting in 2019, if the plan is approved.
The basing proposal is up for consideration as AOPA has been working with state and local pilots' groups to mitigate the impact on general aviation operations of the large swath of military airspace in interior Alaska that forms the core of the 67,000-square-mile Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex (JPARC).
AOPA has advocated for improved radio communications throughout the complex, allowing civil pilots to communicate directly with military range controllers who can provide real-time information on airspace status. The advocacy efforts have been pursued in connection with a proposal to expand JPARC airspace that is working through the FAA rulemaking process, said Tom George, AOPA’s Alaska regional manager.
AOPA is also seeking increased access for general aviation IFR flights—and has pointed out in formal comments submitted by Rune Duke, director of government affairs for airspace and air traffic, that the airspace complex is too large to circumnavigate, and is active approximately 240 days a year.
The F35 proposal is expected to generate an estimated 40-percent increase in JPARC use—and would increase air traffic near Eielson Air Force Base, which is located just east of numerous public and private Fairbanks-area airports.
"Increased mid-air collision risk is a concern, as is the limited access for IFR traffic," George said.
The public hearings on the Eielson Air Force Base F35 basing proposal will be held:
Sept. 21 from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. in the North Pole Middle School auditorium, 300 E. 8th Street, North Pole, Alaska;
Sept. 22 from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at Delta High School, Small Gym, 1655 N. Clearwater Road, Delta Junction, Alaska;
Sept. 23 from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. in the West Valley High School auditorium, 3800 Geist Road, Fairbanks, Alaska.
Members are encouraged to attend the public meetings, and should submit comments by Oct. 20 online or by mail to F-35A Pacific Operational Basing EIS, 354 Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office, 354 Broadway Avenue, Suite 15A, Eielson AFB, AK 99702.
Please share your comments with AOPA.