Franklin Countys First News

Public speaks out against low training flights

Noting that the EIS draft provided only incomplete, inaccurate or no new infomation, Maine's Attorney General Janet Mills said she agreed with the governor in her opposition to the proposal. At left are members of the Air National Guard and consultants on the draft proposal.

FARMINGTON - Representatives of the Air National Guard got an earful today as more than 50 people spoke of about 200 attending a public hearing on a proposal to lower the altitude for military jet training flights over much of western Maine.

The Air National Guard is asking the Federal Aviation Administration to modify the military operation areas known as Condor 1 and Condor 2, so jet pilots can train 500 feet off the ground. Currently, ANG pilots must stay above 7,000 feet throughout the MOA, unless they're training in designated one-way corridors or military training routes which cover 53 percent of the training area.

As part of the FAA's process for altering a training area, the ANG held a public hearing today in Lincoln Auditorium at the University of Maine at Farmington to listen to comments on the proposal as drafted in an Environmental Impact Study. The hearing comes one day after Gov. John Baldacci sent a letter to the ANG voicing his opposition to the lowering of the training altitude in the skies above western Maine. (For more on the governor's letter and the proposal, click here)

Noting that the EIS draft provided only incomplete, inaccurate or no new infomation, Maine's Attorney General Janet Mills said she agreed with the governor in her opposition to the proposal, adding, among other things, she was "appalled that no one reached out to the Penobscot Nation" which owns 47,000 acres under the proposed flight modification.

The Penobscot Nation state Rep. Wayne Mitchell said he had, "nothing against the military - we've stood shoulder to shoulder - but I respectively request that our property be prohibited from use" for the lower jet training flights. "We are deeply opposed to this," Mitchell added.

State Rep. Tom Saviello of Wilton listed several objections to the draft, noting examples cited in the study, such as noise levels, windmill impact, endangered species study information were either out of date or just plain wrong. He said that there wasn't a word about what the economic impact on businesses that rely recreational and ecological tourism, if the plan were to go further.

State Rep. Jarrod Crockett of Bethel, called the EIS draft "a half-hearted effort" and said he was disturbed that the ANG "disregarded requests from Maine's governor, senators and representatives to provide a more complete study of the lower flights over Maine.

"The request should be denied until the EIS is completed," Crockett said.

"We're giving away our natural resources and getting nothing in return," said state Rep. Lance Harvell of Farmington.

"Maine: The way life should be," said state Rep. Paul Gilbert of Jay. "People choose to live here for the peace and tranquillity. If we didn't feel that way we'd live at Logan or LaGuardia or in New Jersey. We stand in opposition to this proposal."

Warren Cook of Kingfield, who has owned and managed the Sugarloaf ski area and now manages Saddleback Maine, two of Maine's largest ski areas, said jets flying low over recreational areas would be devastating to business.

"The largest employer in Franklin County is the outdoors and recreational tourism; it's critical to our economy." He requested the ANG complete an economic impact study as well.

"What could be better for an Air National Guard pilot than to fly up to Maine on a weekend and dive-bomb a mountain?" he asked.

"I support the men and women in uniform who keep this country safe," said resident Lloyd Griscom of Phillips, "but not all their ideas." The director of the High Peaks Alliance that supports land and trail systems for public enjoyment, he said with all the mills closed or closing, the shoe industry gone, "the need for sustainable employment is urgent."

"Land conservation is a form of economic development," Griscom said and jets flying low over scenic areas, "the impact would be devastating."

Along with the politicians, business owners and conservation group representatives, farmers spoke of their fear for their livestock if a jet flies low over their herd.

Comments tonight will be recorded, along with written comments sent until Jan. 1, 2010 and research will be conducted and added to the EIS report. To complete the EIS with the new research and comments included will take about four to six months.

Once the EIS is completed it will be submitted to the Federal Registry and must be signed off by the secretary of the Air Force.

Once the secretary signs off, a 30-day public comment period begins. Once the comment period is over, the EIS is sent to the FAA where it will make the decision.

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7 Responses »

  1. I'ld like to respond to the article in the ANG low flying study for the public hearing. I agree that the ANG dropped the ball on oversight on reaching out to the Penobscot Nation. I have a lot of respect for Attorney General Janet Mills and State Rep. and Selectman Tom Saviello of Wilton, for Wilton. I appologize that I'm not familiar with other State Rep. etc.
    The issue for me is, The ANG has to have the best training available so that less of our men will be casualties of the war in Afghanistan. Some terains in Maine are simular to areas in Afghanistan. We should be standing up and supporting the ANG and all our troops! We sahould also be asking how can we help them so more of our boys and can come home safely.
    Michael Hill

  2. Climate change has already claimed countless innocent victims around the world and could reach a tipping point from which it cannot be stopped. Even if I believed these flights made me more personally secure, I couldn’t be so stupid as to support such a gargantuan consumption of fuel when placed in the context of a planet threatened with survival.

    Domestic consumption of oil just for military aviation fuel exceeds 2.6 billion gallons a year and represents the largest use of fuel by any industry in the world. With such mammoth usage gobbling up finite resources, military aviation exercises do not protect our national security, they threaten it.

    If the military wins this battle over flight exercises it will be a Pyrrhic Victory in light of the global cost. Flight simulators are never going to be the real thing, but the technology has improved a great deal and, in a time of monster deficits, they also save a lot of money.

    If you would like to learn more about this issue, see

  3. I understand Michael, but "home to what?"

    I've lived off the end of a runway at Logan Airport many many years ago. I know the sound of civilian jets - I've heard military jets and they're much louder. The Air Force will say they'll restrict speeds and they'll do this and do that, but they won't if they want training to be realistic. Flight simulation is cheaper and as effective. Were it not, civilian pilots would not be training for emergencies using them.

    The question is - what does it do to you psychologically and physically. were talking thousands of people being impacted here in Franklin County - it's not insignificant. No one is going to vacation on saddleback or at Sugarloaf if they're awakened to the sound of an F-15 at 500 feet.

    I was being sarcastic in a previous thread when I wondered why Mass ANG didn't train in Mass. The Berksires might be every bit as good as the hills of western Maine and they're right next to Westover. But they won't do it because, politically, it's a non-starter

    I agree we must make our pilots as well trained as possible, did we also have them do low level flights between buildings to train for raids on cities as in Baghdad a few years ago? Of course not, it was politically impossible, way too risky and would have done terrible damage to the lives of city dwellers. We deserve that same consideration.

  4. But your friend Nancy flies to Cali every weekend in a military jet, wasting is that alright?

  5. Vet, that claim about Pelosi's jet is blatantly false.

    And even if it were true, it wouldn't be right and would deserve just as much scrutiny as we are giving this ill-conceived plan now.

  6. If you have seen thousands of wounded and dead return from war and it was because they didn't get the traning to do the job, how many would be outraged? I was an aircraft mechanic and my barracks was at the end of the runway. I saw the thousands of men and boys come back.

  7. I agree with you Mike. People are so worried about the effect that it will have on them. Nobody seems to care about the valuable lives of our young service men and women who go into harms way every, single day.These brave flyers deserve nothing less than the very best training that we can provide. When the wars are over we can make adjustments then if necessary.

    Any body who has lived in this area for any length of time, will remember when the training was very common and the flights very low in the 70s and 80s. They used to brake the sound barrier back then and shake all the windows in every house in Stratton. I don't remember anyone raiseing a big stink about it. Its nothing new.

    In times of war everyone needs to make sacrifices. All of us should be willing to do our part even if it is putting up with a little noise.