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Georgia MOA proposal raises safety concerns above Okefenokee Swamp

An environmental impact statement identified three possible outcomes and one “no action” alternative, some of which would lower the general aviation airspace ceiling to between 100 and 1,000 feet above an area Native Americans called “trembling earth” that contains a maze of brackish water in a prehistoric environment infested with alligators.

Though MOAs don’t prohibit nonmilitary aircraft from transiting the area, pilots flying in the Moody airspace must use see-and-avoid techniques to prevent potential flight path conflicts with Fairchild Republic A–10 Thunderbolt, Lockheed HC–130J Super Hercules, Sierra Nevada Corp./Embraer A–29 Super Tucano, and Sikorsky HH­60 Pave Hawk aircraft.

The environmental impact statement explains that training initiated 20 years ago in altitudes from 8,000 feet up to 23,000 feet hasn’t kept up with military defense objectives that have transitioned from “support of high-altitude tactical fighter/bomber training missions to support of various low-altitude” close-air support, low-altitude engagement and attack, and personnel recovery/combat search-and-rescue missions.

The proposed airspace action is needed “to provide access for training missions operating at low altitudes from Moody AFB and to optimize the Moody Airspace Complex to enable effective training to achieve real-world combat readiness and survivability,” according to an informational website established for the initiative.

Pilots familiar with the area typically fly several thousand feet above the ground to afford safe glides to any of the 12 nearby GA airports in case of an emergency. Pop-up thunderstorms are common in the area during the summer months and avoiding convective activity could be complicated by the additional MOA from Southwest Georgia Regional Airport in Albany through Homerville; and from Crisp County-Cordele Airport to Valdosta Regional Airport. The area encompasses almost 9,000 square miles.

The proposed lowering of the training area’s floor from the current 8,000 feet down to a proposed 100 to 1,000 feet agl could also negatively affect the dozen GA airports that together generate about $175 million through 1,584 jobs, according to the Georgia Department of Transportation. Together, all of the airfields account for about 176,000 annual operations and 326 based aircraft. The top three airports affected would be Southwest Georgia Regional Airport, Crisp County-Cordele Airport, and Valdosta Regional Airport—each with about 22,000 annual aircraft operations.

The proposed revision of the Moody Airspace Complex adjacent to Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Georgia, was first brought to AOPA members’ attention in December during an initial comment period. AOPA urges members to review the draft environmental impact statement proposal and submit comments as provided on the project website.

Please also share your comments with AOPA.

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