Montana: Our Skies Are Closed

As many of my faithful readers know, I am a big supporter of the military. With several years of active duty service under my belt, I follow military and defense issues closely.

Readers may remember my commentaries about the plans to expand the Powder River Training Complex (training airspace) into southeastern Montana. If not, you can catch them HERE and HERE.

To catch you up, the Air Force proposal would stretch south of Interstate 94 from a few miles west of Bismarck, North Dakota, to east of Billings, Montana, and north of Interstate 90. It’s a great area in which our military pilots could train – with plenty of open airspace and low population. Here’s a MAP(PDF).

According to a press release (PDF)  from the Air Combat Command:

The following locations have the potential of being affected by the proposal’s overhead training airspace: Montana–Crow and Northern Cheyenne Reservations and the counties of Big Horn, Carter, Custer, Fallon, Powder River, Rosebud, Treasure, and Yellowstone.

I am 100% in favor of this plan and believe that it could pay big dividends down the road for future military aircraft missions in Montana, be it from the military or from a defense company looking for a place to train. South Dakota’s leaders, led by Senator John Thune, are all on-board supporting the expansion.

Montana’s leaders are not supporting the expansion and, in my opinion, have all but screwed the state in ever getting a flying mission (or maybe even keeping the one they have).

We often hear the Congressional delegation tout their support for the military and for the work they say they do looking for new missions to bring to Montana. We’ve all heard them say things like “Montana has vast open airspace and low population” and/or “I’ll continue to fight to expand our military here in Montana” or something along those lines.

Montana military supporters have been fed a lot of baloney.

Recently, the Casper Star-Tribune (and other sources) reported that Montana Department of Transportation Director Jim Lynch opposes the proposed flight area. Lynch is appointed by the Governor of Montana. The Montana Aeronautics Division falls under his agency. Lynch’s spokesperson was quoted saying, “The director sent a letter opposing the expansion, basically saying that there was no positive impact or benefit for the state of Montana.”

Huh? What planet is Lynch from?

Keeping a current aircraft mission (and the jobs that go with it) and possibly gaining favor with the Defense Department for future aircraft missions are just a couple of positive things that could happen that could benefit the state.

Unfortunately, Montana’s leaders have shown their cards and Montana skies are closed for future military and defense missions, but South Dakota’s skies are wide open.

Decision makers back at the Pentagon see who has their backs during processes like this one. Regrettably for Montana, they also have a long memory. 

Here’s a link with information about the Powder River Training Complex:  http://www.ellsworth.af.mil/prtc.asp

2 thoughts on “Montana: Our Skies Are Closed

  1. Pingback: Expand Powder River « The Western Word

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