Aviation Advisory Committee (AAC)
April 15, 2015
The Aviation Advisory Committee met on the above date with the following members present: Ted Rhodes (District 1), Mike Harris (District 2), Brian Watkins (District 3), Michael Wooley (District 4), Whiting Field representative Randy Roy, and Eglin representative Jeff Fanto. County staff present: County Administrator (Hunter Walker) and Administrative Services Manager (Tammy Simmons).
Rhodes called the meeting to order at 5:00 p.m. The minutes of the January 15, 2015, meeting was approved unanimously.
Eglin AFB and GRASI Updates
Fanto presented “Gulf Regional Airspace Strategic Initiative (GRASI) Update”
The presentation is skewed toward the Landscape Initiative as it is the most current activity. The GRASI was created from the realization that the airspace in our region, not just with Eglin, but regionally was being saturated with existing and new missions with the arrival of the F-35 Training and the 7th Special Forces Group at Eglin. The new activity was limiting the abilities to use certain parts of the Eglin Range and creating difficulty making it all work together. GRASI was started several years ago in an attempt to bring all parties together from a regional perspective to better manage the airspace available to facilitate all the mission requirements and all commercial civil aviation requirements.
Gulf Regional Airspace Strategic Initiative (GRASI) Update
Planning for Mission Integration
Landscape Initiative (update) Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
6/3/2014, Carrabelle, FL
6/4/2014, Apalachicola, FL
6/5/2014, Milton, FL
August 12, 2013 Notice of Intent Published in Federal Register August 27-29, 2013 Public Scoping Meetings May 9 – June 23, 2014 Draft EIS Review Period June 3-5, 2014 Draft EIS Public Hearings
Spring 2015 Release of Final EIS to the Public
Summer 2015 Record of Decision Signed
Harris questioned if the SUA is planned to expand and will the Military Operations Area (MOA) change? Fanto stated we are not looking to expand that we are just looking to try to get some of the ground operations off of our range to enable it to be used more for testing; but, he will get an exact answer from the GRASI Project Manager. Roy stated Whiting Field is not doing anything except subdividing internally on how they segregate the MOAs for internal use.
Friday, April 24, 2015 – E-mail received from Jeffrey Fanto included the original message from Gregory Kesler, GRASI Project Manager: “No, there are no plans for increasing SUA, although there is a proposal being worked to add new Air Traffic Control Assigned Airspace (ATCAA). This is airspace above flight level 180 (18,000 ft. MSL) which is in positive control airspace or Class “A” airspace (must be in contact with FAA or air navigation service provider). This was agreed to by all participants in the GRASI process and involves key airspace providers from Pensacola (Navy and FAA), Eglin, Tyndall and FAA’s Jacksonville Center. ATCAAs are done only through letters of agreement with the FAA and are not considered SUA in the true definition and are also not charted on sectionals”.
Wooley questioned a website he recently came across called seeandavoid.org, it was started by the Air National Guard Flight Safety Division; the site has all the special use airspace in the United States and it highlights it in three categories; cold, pending and hot. The purpose is to ease the burden of flight planning through an area, how accurate is that? Roy stated from their perspective the only thing that Whiting Field uses is the Pensacola north and south MOA. Roy cautions that most sites are not real time. Fanto once again stated he will get an exact answer from the GRASI Project Manager.
Friday, April 24, 2015 – E-mail received from Jeffrey Fanto included the original message from Gregory Kesler, GRASI Project Manager: “We are aware of the website seeandavoid.org and it has been our experience it is not 100% accurate. Example, some of Eglin’s restricted airspaces (such as R-2914 and R-2915) are active 24/7 unless returned to the FAA when not in use. Those airspaces do not show up as active when sometimes, in fact, they are. While another tool for general aviation flight planning, it should not be viewed as being a sole source for info and should not replace due diligence of an aviator to contact the controlling agency if planning to fly through any particular SUA”.
Fanto stated one of the areas of interest in the Blackwater River is a former camp for at risk youth with some facilities and a grass strip that could be used for different scenarios. Some of the public concern was no matter how well you try to leave it better than you found it, there is going to be an impact with that many boots on the ground. Fanto stated the people who reside in this area were very well represented at the meetings.
Harris questioned if this training is new or are they currently doing it somewhere else? Fanto stated it is being done elsewhere, some of it on Eglin’s Reservation so in an effort to try to insure that all training entities get the training they are required to maintain proficiency and be ready to go down range, we are looking for options and alternatives for them.
Fanto gave an update on the Joint Strike Fighter program stating all of the B models (Marine Corp variant) are now based out of Cherry Point. Eglin still has the As (Air Force) and Cs (Navy). The Navy is investigating the possibility of bringing additional C models to Eglin to try to fill some of the void left by the B models departing. Fanto stated the record of decision was to allow up to 59 total aircraft at Eglin. The maintenance training is maturing and the pilot training continues on; now they are supplying pilots to Luke Air Force Base because that is the first operational base for the F35.
Fanto stated any place in the nation that is sighted to get a F35 is going through similar growth pains that we went through in terms of basing actions, noise concerns and environmental impact statements. New England is currently looking at potentially their first Guard Facility and the residents up there are very, very concerned.
Fanto stated the Military’s Public Affairs Office keeps track of noise complaints that they receive and they categorize them based upon the nature and location of the complaint. In the last quarter there were two (2) aviation related noise complaints and he did not believe either one of those were related to the F35. Roy stated they are flying at Choctaw and he has not heard one complaint yet. Fanto stated there has been a lot of work done toward limiting the impact of noise on the residents such as change approach and departure, altitude, and limiting operations on runway 01 that comes right over VPS to emergencies only; we are now concerned with the closing of runway 12/30 for maintenance work which could take potentially 3-4 months.
Walker informed the Committee that the County has received notice from FAA, Director of Compliance, that the lease with Milton Aviation Partners (MAP) was Economically Discriminatory between MAP and Aircraft Management Services (AMS). FAA provided a 30 day period for the County to appeal or provide a corrective action plan; the timeframe was extended to 90 days at the request of the County. Walker stated he would be very surprised if the County appealed the decision and further stated the County will be working to develop a corrective action plan, there has to essentially be parroting between the two leases.
Simmons’ stated the hangar inspections scheduled for April 14-15, 2015 were delayed until next month due to weather. Simmons’ further stated the 15 new hangars are now open for lease and the first individuals contacted about the leasing availability were mostly current hangars wanting to be moved into the new hangars; we anticipate within the next several months all hangars will be occupied.
Walker stated there is a large amount of traffic at the airport with the both FBOs partnering with flight training firms that primarily serve the pre-military market, the western side of the airport is primarily the side that is getting the noise complaints. The two FBOs seem to be making a great effort to mitigate and moderate the noise issues; but, there is only so much you can do.
Rhodes stated by the July meeting there could be an update to the GRASI report and the appeal with the County in relationship to AMS’s complaint to FAA.
Walker stated the next meeting will be July 15, 2015.
Meeting adjourned at 5:48 p.m.