After several months of meetings, the Air National Guard hasn’t proven its case for lowering jet flights in Western Maine. What it has done, instead, is present the same argument multiple times.

Those concerned about flights – which could drop jets to 500 feet overhead – deserve more. Examinations of the full economic and environmental impacts are warranted to answer questions and as a courtesy.

Leverage against these plans is minimal. Unless the Guard changes its mind, all opponents can do is effect delays, which although lengthy, might ultimately be fruitless.

In Colorado, a plan similar to what’s proposed in Maine was litigated for 13 years, before expiring on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear opponents’ last-ditch appeal in 2007.

Appellants spent more than $1 million stating their case, a chunk of change Western Maine shouldn’t spend, if the Guard would evaluate all impacts of the flights and options for training areas. Good questions about options have been raised, but not resolved.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, in opposing the flights, has argued that Upstate New York is a better training area for the airfields eyeing Maine’s “Condor Military Operation Area.”

And, in September, the Federal Aviation Administration approved alterations to the Adirondack Airspace Complex, over objections by AOPA that making the changes, along with changes mulled in Maine, were redundant.

(The FAA also heard cultural/economic concerns raised by the Adirondack Mountain Club, Adirondack Park Agency and others. It determined “no significant impacts are expected” and did not order subsequent studies, as has been requested in Maine.)

AOPA’s arguments merit additional attention. With airspace changes in New York (which took effect Nov. 20, according to the Federal Register), perhaps plans for Maine could be re-worked to alleviate residents’ concerns.

At least, the Guard should discuss the relationship between these airspaces, and defend why changes in Western Maine remain a viable and important option for the reasons they’ve given.

(The difference between them, according to the FAA, is Condor is unrestricted, while Adirondack encompasses a restricted area around the Army base at Fort Drum. This determines the types of pilot trainings in each area. Ominously named “hazardous activities,” for example, are prohibited in Condor airspace.)

The Guard’s argument for Condor is clear: The change is needed for convenience, efficiency, training and keeping America safe. No objections here. But we’ve heard these reasons before.

When situations change, so should the debate. The opening of Adirondack airspace asks new questions about the needs for Maine, which should be discussed.

So should environmental issues raised by affected communities, residents and officials. Though the FAA, given its upstate New York example, might not order additional studies, the Guard should do them, anyway.

Acknowledging concerns shouldn’t take a mandate. Those affected by the flights deserve these answers.

Not what they’ve gotten – the same old reasons.


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