Plan seeks to expand training airspace over West Virginia

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A 2,000-square-mile swath of airspace over southern West Virginia would be designated as a Military Operations Area to accommodate training by armed forces aviators under a plan by Yeager Airport and the West Virginia National Guard.
While the Yeager-Guard plan for creating a southern West Virginia Military Operations Area is in its infancy, planning and regulatory work are nearing completion for a major expansion of the state’s only existing training zone for military aircraft, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported.
The Evers Military Operating Area now includes airspace above 450 square miles of Pocahontas, Randolph and Pendleton counties.
The District of Columbia Air National Guard is seeking to expand it to include a training area of 3,500 square miles, stretching northward into Tucker and Barbour counties, and as far south as northern Monroe County. It also would include portions of Upshur, Webster, Nicholas, Greenbrier, Lewis, Harrison and Braxton counties, plus segments of Virginia’s Alleghany, Bath and Highland counties.
The southern West Virginia MOA is being sought “to increase military training while using Yeager Airport as a home base,” said Nick Keller, director of the Charleston airport.
Tentative plans call for most of the southern West Virginia MOA’s training activity to take place at altitudes between 3,500 to 15,000 feet. But two former strip mines would have restricted airspace when training is underway, to accommodate low-level flights, remote landings and live-fire exercises.
Civilian and commercial aircraft would share the MOA’s airspace, except for the two sites capable of imposing flight restrictions when low-flight training is in progress. When training is not occurring, that airspace also would be shared with private and commercial aircraft.
The Evers MOA expansion is being sought primarily to provide F-16C pilots with the District of Columbia Air National Guard with a training area large enough to accommodate training in air-to-air and air-to-ground combat scenarios, as well as to practice aerial refueling.
Training in the Evers MOA is to take place no higher than 17,999 feet above sea level, to avoid encounters with higher-flying commercial air traffic, and no lower than 1,000 feet above ground elevation, to provide a measure of safety.