Senator John Thune (R-S.D.), in a meeting today with Michael Huerta, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), continued to call on the FAA to expedite the expansion of the Powder River Training Complex (PRTC) near Ellsworth Air Force Base.
“I appreciate Administrator Huerta’s understanding and consideration of the Powder River expansion and his commitment to its completion,” said Thune. “Finalizing the expansion of this training airspace is vital to maintaining our military readiness and is important to the state of South Dakota. I will continue to work with the FAA and the Air Force to ensure its timely approval.”
For the past eight years, Thune has been working closely with the Air Force and Ellsworth officials to find ways to enhance the existing training range used by the B-1 bombers at Ellsworth and other military aircraft in neighboring states to save taxpayer dollars and enhance training for military personnel. As the Air Force approaches the completion of this process, Thune has been working to expedite coordination between the Air Force and the FAA to head off any potential obstacles. After the Air Force signs its Record of Decision (ROD), the FAA will then need to finalize a similar proposal outlining how the expansion would impact other users, including private and commercial flights. At Thune’s request, both the Air Force and the FAA have already been working together closely to address concerns in advance to ensure a timely approval of the expanded training range.
The expansion of the PRTC would quadruple its current size, making it the largest terrestrial training airspace over the continental United States. The training space will allow for cost savings and environmental benefits to the military. In addition, the expansion would enable limited Large Force Exercises where multiple aircraft and crews can train together simulating a combat environment. No live-fire exercises will take place in the PRTC under the proposed expansion.
Senator Thune serves as the top ranking Republican on the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which oversees a broad number of federal agencies, including the FAA and the U.S. Department of Transportation.Attached is a photo of Thune and Huerta’s meeting.
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