May 6, 2016

An upcoming Large Force Exercise (LFE) taking place June 7 to 9 across the recently charted Powder River Training Complex (PRTC) may pose challenges for business aircraft operators flying over North and South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming, and members are requested to advise NBAA of any difficulties they might encounter.

Implemented last September, the massive training area is divided into four segments and 18 separate military operations areas. Three, 8-mile-wide corridors (or “gaps”) provide paths between the training areas for civil air traffic, with priority given to IFR traffic crossing the training area’s footprint.

The PRTC provides a training area for bombers based at Ellsworth and Minot Air Force Bases so the military aircraft can simulate operations over hostile regions. Civil aviation traffic through the PRTC is coordinated through the Salt Lake City Air Route Traffic Control Center, Denver ARTCC and Minneapolis Center.

Two LFEs have taken place since the PRTC was established, but the upcoming exercise will mark the first time the entire complex is active at the same time. “It’s here, and it’s real,” said NBAA Northwest Regional Representative Kristi Ivey. “This will be the biggest test yet for the compromises reached between the FAA and the U.S. Air Force during the development process.”

NBAA worked with regional aviation groups and other stakeholders during the planning process to ensure that any impact to business aircraft operators in the region would be minimal. Among other stipulations, those discussions resulted in an agreement to limit such training to a total of 10 days per year, with exercises occurring once every three months and for no more than three days at a time.

“Thanks to this close collaboration between industry representatives and military officials, all indications are that business aircraft operators have not been significantly impacted by the PRTC,” said Bob Lamond, NBAA’s director, air traffic services and infrastructure. “That said, each exercise poses new potential challenges, which means it’s very important that NBAA members contact us about any operational issues during the LFE.”

NOTAMs will be issued 72 hours prior to the start of the exercises, and Ellsworth Air Force Base officials urged civil operators to monitor Flight Service for the latest developments, or by visiting the FAA’s online special-use airspace resource.