Zinke: Montana’s Airspace is ?

It’s always good to see our elected officials making their way around the state meeting with constituents to discuss the local issues that are important to Montanans.

U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke (R-MT) spent last week visiting Missoula, Bozeman, Billings, Glasgow, and Great Falls.

Although the three main sources for news in Great Falls covered the event in Great Falls (KRTV, KFBB, Great Falls Tribune), the story in the Tribune was the one that caught my attention – especially the quote about Montana’s airspace in which Zinke said, “Montana has a huge amount of airspace that should be made available for training.”

After reading that, I thought, “What the %&$@?”

It was also reported that Zinke said the military should use more of Montana’s big sky, such as the Hays Military Operations Airspace, about 60 miles north of Great Falls.

In case your mind is a little foggy on where the Hays Military Operations Airspace is located, click HERE.

But wasn’t Zinke, along with Montana’s two U.S Senators, against expanding the Powder River Training Complex in southeastern Montana? Tribune reporter Jenn Rowell included the following in the Zinke story about Powder River:

Zinke, and Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Steve Daines, R-Mont., opposed the expansion of the Powder River Training Complex in southeastern Montana. The delegation has expressed concerns about the impact on local air traffic and restricting airspace, but the Air Force is continuing to work with the Federal Aviation Administration to mitigate those conflicts and announce any military exercises in advance.

Zinke said he’d like to see more use of the Hays MOA, which was previously the primary training space for the 120ths’ F-15s. But the C-130s use the space less often since there’s no cargo drop zone and the C-130s can train closer to Great Falls.

Zinke said he’d be opposed to restricting Montana airspace, including the Hays MOA.

I have been a supporter of expanding the Powder River Training Complex (PRTC) since the beginning, and I’ve written a few times that Montana’s Congressional Delegation has basically told the military and aerospace companies that Montana’s skies are closed when they came out against the expansion of the PRTC.

Zinke issued a press release back in January when the expansion was approved saying “It is deeply troubling that the Air Force hastily released their recommendations to expand the Powder River air space to the FAA without fully weighing the concerns of the local communities.” He ended his statement with, “I urge the FAA to reconsider this ill-advised decision.”

The fact is that the Air Force and FAA weighed the concerns of the local communities. They held meetings around the area and took written statements from these people for years before making a decision to expand it – long before Zinke decided to run for U.S. Congress.

But what is most troubling to me is it appears Zinke has flip-flopped on this issue of military training airspace in Montana. It is my opinion that Zinke, who is the only veteran in the Montana delegation, should have sided with expanding Powder River. I am glad that now, apparently, Zinke feels that Montana’s airspace should be made available for training.

Some of the lefty blogs and people on Twitter have been all over Zinke for what they perceive as flip-flops on a few issues important to them. Sadly, they may be on to something.

I expect Zinke to be the leader of the delegation when it comes to military issues. Giving the perception that he was against expanding the military training airspace in Montana before he was for expanding the military training airspace in Montana is not a very good way to begin his congressional career.

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