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Powder River Council prepares for third annual meetingPowder River Council prepares for third annual meeting

Ten organizations that review shared airspace use with the military in a sprawling Northwestern training complex have set priorities for the next annual meeting of the advisory council that recommends safety enhancements in the airspace.

When the Powder River Council meets in May 2019 to discuss flight operations in the 28,000-square-mile Powder River Training Complex, goals include improving pilots’ access to real-time information about military activity in the airspace, and digesting lessons learned from a recent large-scale exercise held there Oct. 16 to 18, the organizations said in a letter to their military counterparts.

The Oct. 30 letter to the commander of the 28th Bomb Wing, based at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, framed discussions for the third annual meeting of the Powder River Council to be held in Bismarck, North Dakota, hosted by the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission and the North Dakota Aviation Council.

“Communication of real-time airspace status is a priority of this group and we request (that) personnel who can speak to progress in this area be present,” it said.

The Powder River Council’s mission is to review implementation of the military’s Powder River Training Complex (PRTC) Mitigation and Monitoring Plan and track users’ concerns, mitigate air traffic delays, collaborate on proposed solutions, develop education and outreach, and drive efforts to improve efficiency and safety. AOPA currently chairs the council, but the leadership role will move to a local organization for the next meeting, said Rune Duke, AOPA senior director of airspace, air traffic, and security.

The letter to Col. John R. Edwards emphasized that collaborative efforts to enhance safety “became all the more important following a June 2016 near mid-air collision that took place between a general aviation airplane and a B-1 Bomber in an area where Air Traffic Control (ATC) flight following was not available.”

The military is a key partner in the safety effort and its expertise and perspective is “critical” to the discussions, it said.

In February 2018, AOPA and the National Business Aviation Association released a survey reporting that three of four pilots who routinely fly in the complex reported adverse impacts including inefficient routing, lack of information about airspace status, loss of VFR flight following services in the lower altitudes, and aircraft being vectored into bad weather in narrow transit corridors.

When the council examines the impact of the 2018 activation of the airspace, it will take up new aspects of the complex’s activity including GPS interference testing and a vertical extension of the special-use airspace that reached to Flight Level 510.

That vertical extension has brought airlines into the discussions, and the industry plans to participate in the Powder River Council in 2019, Duke said.

The next large force exercise is tentatively planned in the airspace complex for May 14 to 16, 2019.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Advocacy, Special Use Airspace

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