Maine’s federal lawmakers urge public hearing on plan for lower military flights

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Maine’s Congressional delegation is urging the Federal Aviation Administration  to hold a hearing in Maine regarding the Massachusetts Air National Guard’s proposal to expand and lower the flight level for Condor 1 and Condor 2 military flight training areas over western Maine, according to a release issued by U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe’s office.

Snowe, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, both R-Maine, along with U.S. Rep.s Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree, both D-Maine, issued the statement collectively Tuesday.

“Holding a hearing in Maine would help ensure that local residents and other stakeholders have the opportunity to voice their concerns directly to aviation officials,” the group said in a prepared statement.

According to the release the delegation has been working together in response to constituents in western Maine who have expressed concerns about the potential impact the proposed flight level changes could have on the region.

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Condor 1 and 2 military operations areas are used by the 104th Fighter Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard in Westfield, Mass. The Vermont Air National Guard also uses the air space as to active-duty units from the Air Force and other military branches.

The Condor spaces cover portions of Franklin, Oxford, Piscataquis and Somerset counties in Maine and a part of Coos County in New Hampshire.

The proposed change to the Condor space would drop flight levels from 7,000 feet above sea level, or approximately 2,800 to 6,300 feet above the ground, to 500 feet above the ground.

 Earlier this year the Maine State Legislature passed a resolution in opposition to the change. Residents from around the region have voiced concern that lowering the the floor for training will impede their quality of life and create an unecessary hazard in air space above rural Maine.

“Many constituents in Western Maine continue to be concerned about the potential impact these flight level changes would have on the environment, the economy, and the quality of life in Western Maine,” the delegation writes and its letter to FAA Administrator Randolph Babbitt.  “We believe the FAA should hear these concerns firsthand to determine whether or not to approve the airspace change.”

Military officials have said the lowering the floor is necessary to help better train pilots in evolving missions which include close support to combat troops on the ground and the ability to better disable and destroy improvised explosive devices from the air.

A draft environmental impact statement on the change can be found here.

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