A lawsuit contends Davis-Monthan Air Force failed to comply with environmental-protection requirements to adequately gauge noise and other impacts when approving a plan to have more military aircraft visit the Tucson installation to conduct training flights.
The Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest filed the lawsuit Friday in federal court on behalf of several Tucson residents who live in neighborhoods under Davis-Monthan flight patterns.
The lawsuit contends the Air Force didn’t fully analyze health risks and other impacts from flights and violated federal law by failing to conduct a more detailed and rigorous assessment of the proposal before it was approved last May.
Because children live near the base and because airport noise can detract from children’s mental development and education, federal law obligated the Air Force “to undertake a meaningful evaluation of the nature and extent of those impacts,” the lawsuit said.
The suit also said the limited assessment performed by the Air Force didn’t identify and analyze appropriate steps that could mitigate noise and other impacts of increased flight activity.
Base officials said Monday in a prepared statement that they wouldn’t comment on specifics of pending litigation but that they “fully complied with all applicable laws” when they raised the annual cap on visiting aircraft to 2,326, up from the previous cap of 1,408 based on flights in 2009.
The environmental assessment performed by the Air Force said the 65 percent increase in the flight cap would create only a slight change in noise and only negligible impacts at most on property values and other conditions.
Also, flights involving aircraft visiting Davis-Monthan for training represent only 6 percent of the base’s flight operations, base officials said.
The number of flights by aircraft visiting Davis-Monthan has varied dramatically in recent years, from a high of 3,403 in 2007 to 519 in 2013, according to a seven-year chart included with the environmental assessment.
Numerous aircraft from other Air Force bases, other U.S. military services and foreign air forces visit Davis-Monthan, particularly during winter months, to use training areas in the region and to take advantage of Arizona’s good flying weather.
On Monday, a Maryland Air National Guard squadron with 10 A-10 attack jets was at Davis-Monthan.
The base is the year-round home to several flying units, including one Air Force wing that flies A-10s and another that flies search and rescue transports and helicopters.