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Approved Apr 15, 2015 - Aviation Advisory Minutes


  Aviation Advisory Committee (AAC)

April 15, 2015

Milton, Florida


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

  • Gulf Regional Airspace Strategic Initiative – Concluded planned mission requirements exceeded airspace capability for hazardous operations
      • Too many operations in “backyard” airspace
      • Too many non-hazardous ops in restricted airspace
    • Solutions include:
      • Shared airspace across the gulf ranges
      • New military airspace – Air Traffic Control Assigned Airspace (ATCAAs)
      • New congestion avoidance procedures
      • New operating areas for non-hazardous operations
  • Landscape Planning Initiative – Identify/plan for new operation areas for non-hazardous operations (training events). Weapons’ testing takes a priority over training. The issue this creates is training entities not being able to meet their requirements and them not being ready to go down range when their called upon.

GRASI Strategies

  • Internal procedures and tools for more efficient use of airspace and congestion avoidance – Complete
  • Partner to use regional special use airspace – In Progress
    • Focus Group at Regional Airspace Range Council Meeting 28-29 April 2015
  • New military airspace (ATCAAs) – In Progress
    • Meeting held 10-12 March 2015 with Eglin, NAS Pensacola, Tyndall and FAA
  • New land operating areas for non-hazardous ops (GRASI) Landscape Initiative) – In Progress
    • Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in progress

Landscape Initiative (update) Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)

Public Hearings

  • Public hearings completed (3/4/5 June 2014):

6/3/2014, Carrabelle, FL

6/4/2014, Apalachicola, FL

6/5/2014, Milton, FL

  • The Florida Forest Service (FFS) made a statement prior to the hearing. The statement indicated the FFS would consider the EIS and input from its own meeting with the public prior to making any decision on the Air Force proposal.

General Comments

  • NEPA process concerns over consideration of alternatives, such as private land use.
  • Concern regarding a lack of reasonable range of alternatives.
  • Challenge litigation expressed by public.
  • Concerns expressed over accountability.
  • Recommendations for citizens to speak with Congressional Leaders about the consolidation of training due to Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) and to speak with the Governor about the pressure that is placed on the FFS.
  • Incompatible use of State Forest Lands, particularly with regard to noise generated by training events.
    • Concerns over noise impacts to both humans and wildlife from aircraft and munitions.
  • Airspace conflicts and concern over communications capability with other airspace users.
  • Debris from Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) use and expendables (and how would military retrieve all waste).
    • EIS analyzing massive number of expendables that we don’t ever expect to reach, which is fueling the fears that the AF is taking over the State Forests and will be greatly impacting the current users. The “crawl, walk, run” will never get to the Crawl stage because all the public sees is the Run part.
  • Biological concerns regarding protected and other species, including sensitive plants which could be walked on, particularly at night. Bald Eagles and concern over “unique ecosystem” degradation and practicality of implementing promised mitigation.
  • Safety concerns about bears being displaced into populated areas; military trainees having conflicts with recreationists (including citizens with spotting scopes and cameras being misperceived as spying on training activities); and use of concertina wire.
  • Socioeconomic concerns by several individuals about property values and impacts on ecotourism businesses, including those focusing on the experience of solitude.
  • Concerns that FFS would allow AF to use ATVs in the forest, when public are prohibited.
  • Chemical constituents concerns that any residue or debris could adversely impact wildlife.
  • Concerns about intense level of use of state forest (232 days a year).
  • Confusion about whether FFS or Air Force is final decision-maker.

EIS Revision

  • As a result of public comments, a sub-alternative was developed to address concerns over level of activity and lack of viable alternatives.
  • Developed a reduced scale set of operations.
  • Required a contract modification and revised timeline.

Current Timeline

Date                                                                Milestone

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


  • Determine FFS EIS review timeline to include FFS Public hearings and briefing to the State Acquisition & Restoration Council (ARC).
  • Implementation timeline dependent upon FFS review and decision.
  • Follow on actions for approved actions:
    • FFS determines what the Air Force can or cannot do.
    • AF will review FFS decision, restrictions, and mitigations.
    • AF/FFS finalize Operations Plan for approved actions.
    • Complete permits or leases as applicable.
    • Develop user operational procedures.


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.

FBO Issues

No items



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.


Other Business/Adjournment


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.