U.S. Senators call for a more intensive study on military operations in the PA Wilds
“Low, loud and frequent flights could disrupt livelihoods in a region that has built its identity on outdoor recreation and bucolic tranquility.”
That’s from a letter U.S. Senators Bob Casey and John Fetterman sent on Friday, May 25, to Maryland Air National Guard and the Air National Guard Readiness Center. The senators are asking the reserve for a more detailed study of the impact of proposed low altitude flights over the PA Wilds Region.
The Maryland National Guard’s 175 Winged Guard (175th WG) operates the Duke Military Operations Area over five counties in North-Central PA and a small portion of New York. They use the airspace — called the Duke MOA — to run practice flights. In 2021, they proposed lowering a portion of that area so pilots can practice diving to 100 feet above ground level. The new airspace would be called the Duke Low MOA.
The winged guard did an Environmental Assessment (EA), which is a process required under the National Environmental Policy Act. The EA found that lowering the airspace would have no environmental impact on the region. Because of those findings, under the act, the winged guard is not required to conduct an Environmental Impact Study (EIS), which is the most intensive level of analysis.
However, the senators, along with elected officials both at the federal and state level, local leaders, conservation groups and community members disagree.
The PA Wilds contain the largest concentration of public land in the state. Casey and Fetterman’s letter states "that the proposed changes to the use of the airspace … may threaten the rich natural resources of the area, damage quality of life … and threaten the vitality of the growing outdoor and tourism economy."
Casey and Fetterman also have concerns about the A-10 fighter jets the pilots fly.
The Chief of Staff of the Air Force publicly stated the military’s intent to retire all A-10s from service by 2029, the letter states. There are concerns that the plane is vulnerable to modern air defense systems.
“A major airspace decision with long-term consequences—allowing all aircraft to permanently fly as low as 100 feet above ground level—may have negative consequences that outweigh its benefits,” the letter states.