City Council wants helicopter test before granting Army training plan

By PETER ROPER | The Pueblo (Colo.) Chieftain | Published: February 5, 2013

City Council wants to see — and hear — Chinook and Blackhawk helicopters flying training routes around Pueblo before giving a full go-ahead to letting the Army base regular training flights out of Pueblo Memorial Airport.

“Let’s run an exercise and let people see what the Army actually wants to do,” Councilman Chris Nicoll offered at Monday’s work session, getting support from the rest of council.

They also want community meetings on the North Side and East Side to let residents quiz the Army about the 10 to 20 helicopter flights a day that would be part of the training plan.

While Airport Director Mark Lovin is negotiating the training agreement, several council members said they had strong reservations about having the Army flying day and night training missions around Pueblo.

Lovin emphasized the Army won’t fly over Pueblo at night, saying, “That’s a condition I put on them.”

Councilwoman Sandy Daff countered that it was Lovin who had just said the city had no authority over Army flight routes or even whether the Army used the airport.

Lovin was clearly frustrated that council was balking at hosting a training program, which would bring between 150 and 400 Army crew members to Pueblo for two-week training sessions, beginning in May.

“I’m not sure what the issue is,” he said with some impatience. “Is it environmental? Because we can have the Army come down and fly the routes.”

Councilman Steve Nawrocki answered that some residents resented that the Pentagon spends millions of dollars on Fort Carson and Colorado Springs military installations but cut off the $500,000 a year the Air Force was paying to use Pueblo’s airport. And now the Army wants to send noisy helicopters to fly over Pueblo, he added.

“Right or wrong, I’ve had callers tell me that it’s because The Broadmoor doesn’t want this (noise) so the Army is sending the helicopters down here,” he said.

Lovin said that wasn’t his perception and the Army wants to be a good neighbor to Pueblo. He said the training flights would not involve the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site near Trinidad, as he initially told The Chieftain last month.

Instead, the flights would focus solely on highaltitude areas west of Colorado Springs, he said.

Which former U.S. Rep. Ray Kogovsek, the city’s lobbyist, didn’t believe.

“You’re saying the Army is going to fly helicopters down here from Fort Carson only to send them back on training missions to the mountains west of Colorado Springs?” Kogovsek asked Lovin. Lovin said the Army helicopter crews getting training would be from other bases as well as Fort Carson.

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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