Environment, Education, Energy: Policy to People

Western Oklahoma Wind Farms Disrupting Military Flights, Aeronautics Officials Say

T-38 Talon training aircraft from Vance Air Force Base in Enid participating in a fly-over in Oklahoma City.

Bill Wilson / Flickr/CC BY 2.0

T-38 Talon training aircraft from Vance Air Force Base in Enid participating in a fly-over in Oklahoma City.

Wind Farms The growing number of wind farms in western Oklahoma is disrupting military flight training, state aeronautics and military officials say.

The problem is concentrated along flight paths used for military training near Vance Air Force Base in Enid and Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission Director Victor Bird tells the Tulsa World’s Barbara Hoberock:

He said the wind turbines stretch 495 feet above ground, while the training routes start at 500 feet above ground.

“Generally speaking, there is not enough clearance,” Bird said.

“These are men and women who don’t know how to fly yet,” said Mike Cooper, chairman of the Oklahoma Strategic Military Planning Commission. “They are learning how to fly.”

A measure that would have required wind farm operators to get a permit from the Aeronautics Commission before construction, Senate Bill 447, died during the 2017 legislative session.

Jeff Clark with the Wind Coalition says wind farm locations are cleared with the U.S. Department of Defense and the Federal Aviation Administration:

The Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission does not have expertise in the area, and the bill would have created unnecessary bureaucracy, Clark said.

“We believe that protecting the viability of our military bases should be the top priority and we should rely on the experts in the military — not an unqualified state bureaucracy — to determine impacts of proposed projects,” Clark said.

Bird disagrees, saying his agency has been administering for seven years the Aircraft Pilot and Passenger Protection Act, which protects areas around public airports, including military airports, from incompatible development.

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  • Luke

    This article could go more in depth. Why does the aeronautics commission think the FAA and DoD aren’t doing enough? What regulations do they have to meet currently? What would be wrong with shifting the height up 200ft?

    • Agreed! We’re working on a followup!

  • homebuilding

    A standard VFR chart posts flight minimums VERY prominently. Those minimums go UP as soon as a wind farm is newly installed in a given are. Obviously, those minimums are higher in hilly areas and lower in valleys.

    It should be noted that oil well rigs are getting bigger, all the time. Their 24 hour lighting is required for flight safety–BUT, their locations are NOT published for pilots.

    What we have here is a cadre that’s excessively friendly to big oil, seeking to brake any further wind power expansion.

    Shame on them for this misinformation.

    Rest assured that ‘beginner pilots’ know how to
    –read those charts
    –be in constant vigilance for obstacles when flying low
    –take immediate evasive action

    The tallest broadcast tower in Kansas is just five nautical miles east of the Hutchinson Airport (which is plenty long enough to handle commercial jet aircraft). An old WWII training base is ten nautical miles south of that.
    The TALLEST tower in Kansas.
    It’s not a problem.

    Just beware regarding the sources of phony information……and talk to some pilots who have some experience (or even the beginners) with low level flight.

    Thanks, Joe.

    • Good insight!

      • homebuilding

        All of us have to keep out an extra eye for the nonsense that we’ll be fed from time to time.

        And now, it’s clearer all the time that ruskiebots are invading social media with purely stereotypical divisiveness………doing very well at sowing mistrust between ordinarily cooperative citizens, clearly appealing to the non-studied and non-analytical.

        We’ve got to shut them down—

        • Unavailable


          • homebuilding

            OK, un..
            I can’t shut ‘em down,
            but I sure can push back when we see nonsense seeping or gushing into the discussion.
            Maybe we can get Joe W to start a comprehensive list of
            (GRAF) generally regarded as factual stuff that’s really quite specious.

  • Unavailable

    This is a red herring if I ever heard one. Raising the minimum altitude for training missions is a lot easier than any other solution to this “problem”. State government has no business trying to regulate matters relating to air traffic, it is a federal jurisdiction. If the Air Force needs to fly training missions at such a low altitude, there are plenty of locations they can do that where there are no wind farms. This sounds more like another attempt to curtail competition with fossil fuels and those behind it should be investigated to see if they have received payoffs from fossil fuel promoters.

    • Linda Clark

      Therein might be the rub. These communities don’t want to be disqualified as locations that welcome training missions. The wind industry is building taller turbines with every project. A little extra scrutiny of the impacts on the communities wouldn’t hurt!

      • homebuilding

        That would seem parallel to “more gummint regulation.”

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