A 28,000-square-mile area of special-use airspace known as the Powder River Training Complex is now active. The airspace, which covers large areas of Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota was activated Sept. 17, the same date the new Billings Sectional Aeronautical chart, which covers the entire complex, was issued.
“The Powder River Training Complex covers an enormous area and AOPA is continuing to work with military and FAA officials to mitigate the impact it will have on GA airports and operations,” said Rune Duke, AOPA director of air traffic and airspace. “And now that the airspace is available for military use, we urge pilots to be aware of the Powder River Training Complex boundaries and operating times so they can continue to traverse the area safely.”
The Powder River Training Complex consists of four primary military operations areas (MOAs) connected by Gap MOAs, and affects 39 airports. In places, it covers altitudes from 500 feet agl up to the flight levels. Military officials estimate the Powder River Training Complex will be used for an estimated 2,882 training hours each year, or three-to-six hours per day, about 240 days per year. The primary purpose of the special-use airspace will be to train B-1 and B-52 bomber crews.
AOPA has been working since 2004 to minimize the impact of the expanded MOAs. Several of AOPA’s recommendations were taken into account in the final design, including requests to modify the MOAs to better accommodate IFR procedures, subdividing some MOAs to limit the affected area, raising the floor of some MOAs to allow aircraft to fly underneath, and adjusting some MOA boundaries to accommodate commonly used VFR routes.
Although the airspace is now active, AOPA is continuing to work with the FAA to reduce charted times of use to more accurately reflect actual usage of the airspace. The association is also working with the Air Force and FAA to implement a Special-Use Airspace Information System that would provide real-time information regarding military flight operations to general aviation pilots 24 hours a day via telephone or radio. A similar system has been in use in Alaska since 1990.