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Army seeks chopper flights out east



Needing space to train its hundreds of helicopter pilots while the Butts Army Airfield is overhauled for a combat aviation brigade, Fort Carson wants to fly night missions over the prairies east of Colorado Springs.

An environmental assessment issued in May found that flights at Bullseye Auxiliary Airfield would cause "no significant adverse environmental consequences." The airfield, several miles from Ellicott, covers 128 acres and has fueling facilities and a 3,500-foot by 75-foot paved runway. Fewer than 20 homes sit within 46 square miles there, the study says.

Carson spokesperson Dee McNutt says the study has nothing to do with the Forest Service curtailing landing zones in the Pike and San Isabel National Forests west of Colorado Springs, or the post's application for permission to land and take off on Bureau of Land Management land northeast of Cañon City ("Hard landings," March 19). Rather, the on-post airfield's construction interferes with flights. "We need a place to train at night," McNutt says.

Carson wants to use Bullseye, the study states, to save costs associated with the 90-minute flight and six-hour drive by ground convoys from Butts to Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site, in southeast Colorado.

Arguing that Bullseye is key to pilot battlefield proficiency, the proposal calls for use of the airfield year-round, five days a week, from sundown to six hours after sundown. This would work around the Air Force Academy's daytime flight training there.

However, the use won't be temporary. "It's full-time use," McNutt says. "Even when construction is complete [at Butts] ... we'd still like to use it."

The study doesn't address impacts on air quality, airspace use, traffic, land use, socioeconomics and cultural resources, among other factors, considering them not relevant. It relied on a cultural resources survey done by the academy in 1988 before the airfield opened, which found no archaeologically or historically significant sites.

The study reports that training at Bullseye would have no effect on soils, water resources, wildlife, vegetation and hazardous waste. Wildlife would adjust to the noise, the study says, and flight patterns could be altered to reduce noise in populated areas, such as Fountain, which lies in the flight path.

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