/ Modified sep 30, 2014 9:37 a.m.

METRO WEEK: Expanded Flight Training to Have Minimal Effect

Numbers could grow, but account for 6% of Davis-Monthan traffic, base officials say.

Training flights by visiting air crews at Tucson's Davis-Monthan Air Force Base will nearly double in number this year but will have minimal impact on the surrounding area, base officials said.

Davis-Monthan released a draft environmental assessment report this week on how the base's activities affect the Tucson area. The study looked at what the Air Force calls, Total Force Training, a program more commonly known as Operations Snowbird, which brings U.S. and foreign military pilots and crews to train in Southern Arizona.

The operation began with bringing northern National Guard units to Arizona in the wintertime for flight training. The plan for such training requires a federal environmental impact study, said Col. James P. Meger, the commander of the 355th Fighter Wing at Davis-Monthan.

The report also addresses plans to expand such winter training, and incorporates previous public comments, he said.

The increased flights would have minimal environmental impact on Tucson and the surrounding area, according to the report. The noise level would be roughly the same, with the area affected by noise expanded by about 100 feet.

The base officials put the actual aircraft, flight paths and altitudes into a model to find out how the aircrafts to be used in the training would change the noise levels near the air force base. The result from the model shows the cone-shaped area behind an aircraft where the engine noise is audible would expand by about 100 feet, mostly to the back and sides, Meger said.

The additional flights would account for 6 percent of all flight operations at the base if the plan is approved, Meger said.

"When we looked at what do we see as the current demand...we came up with the new number of 2,300-2,600 sorties," compared to about 1,400 flights in 2009, Meger said.

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