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Military helicopters circle skies above Durango

Airport director says armed forces conducting high-altitude training
Military helicopters that had been training around Durango last week should wrap up Monday or Tuesday, says Tony Vicari, aviation director of Durango-La Plata County Airport.

If you started to imagine you were hearing helicopters flying over the skies of Durango last week, fear not: There was a planned military training based at Durango-La Plata County Airport.

Aviation Director Tony Vicari said it’s rather common military or other government agencies will conduct high-altitude trainings based at the Durango airport, which sits at about 6,660 feet in elevation.

Plus, the mountains to the north reach upward of 14,000 feet, Vicari said.

“Last week, there was some military, government folks doing flight training,” he said. “Oftentimes, it’s high-altitude training.”

Vicari said he believed the training was supposed to wrap up Monday or Tuesday this week.

The Durango airport is part of the National Airspace System, a network of the U.S.’s airspace, as well as navigation facilities, equipment and services, including airports and landing areas.

As a result, the airport can be used by any entity, Vicari said, including the military. For the most part, the military does not need to plan or coordinate with the airport, Vicari said.

“I never know what they’re doing unless I walk down there myself,” he said.

Usually, military groups come from the Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, the Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs or the Buckley Air Force Base outside Denver, Vicari said.

On top of high-altitude training, sometimes the military practices touch-and-go landings, when a pilot lands on a runway and takes off again without coming to a full stop. Or, military stops can be as simple as landing to refuel during cross-country travel.

“It’s across the map,” Vicari said.


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