Despite the doom and gloom approach taken by that other paper (in Boise), the FAA's decision not to expand the footprint of the existing training range airspace for Mountain Home Air Force Base probably won't have a significant impact on the decision by the Air Force as to whether or not it will base any F-35s here.
The F-35 decision will be based on existing capabilities of the base -- and it meets all the technical criteria needed for the fifth-generation aircraft to be based here. In fact, all politics aside, we believe Mountain Home AFB should be the preferred site to base the first operational squadrons of the Joint Strike Fighter. Of course, influence peddling is the number one industry in Washington, D.C., so it's possible politics may intrude in the decision. But if the Air Force leadership makes the F-35 decision on the facts alone, as they say they will, we should have a better than good chance to get the planes.
We strongly suspect Col. Buckley's comments on the FAA decision were "misunderstood" by that other publication. He doesn't see the decision as a show stopper at all for the F-35.
The Air Force has been trying for years to expand the training airspace for the base and will continue to work with the FAA to do so. They haven't asked for that much. In fact, we've suggested on several occasions that they ask for much more -- an expansion that would link the ranges for the Fallon range and the Utah Test and Training Range.
It would make it one of the finest training range airspaces in the nation and it wouldn't take that much to do it. It would affect some commercial aircraft, but other major training range airspaces around the country, such as those around Nellis AFB, already have commercial aircraft that fly through them, with very few problems. We think such a deal is workable and should be explored.
As to the F-35, the FAA's decision is hardly a deal killer, and we eagerly await the Air Force decision that should be made in the next few weeks.