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AICUZ program helps ensure safe, sustainable flying operations 

  • Published
  • By Debbie Aragon
  • AFIMSC Public Affairs

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – The Air Force Civil Engineer Center, installation civil engineer squadrons and civilian community planners are helping ensure safe flying operations across the enterprise through the Air Installations Compatible Use Zones program. 

The AICUZ program, a Department of Defense program similar to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Federal Aviation Regulation program for civil airports, promotes development compatible with military flight operations. 

Each installation manages its AICUZ program but looks to AFCEC, a primary subordinate unit of the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, to secure funding and facilitate periodic AICUZ studies, as well as provide reach-back support after the study is complete.  

“A current AICUZ study helps protect the health, safety and welfare of installation neighbors from the effects of aircraft operations while ensuring the continued viability of installation missions,” said Gary Thompson, Department of the Air Force AICUZ program manager in the AFCEC Planning and Integration Directorate. 

A viable AICUZ study promotes collaborative planning with communities outside the fence to achieve these objectives. 

“It’s a valuable tool to inform our installation leadership and neighboring communities of risks to safety for residents in those communities and for our pilots and airfield personnel,” said Traycee Chapman, installation community planner at Tyndall Air Force Base who co-manages the Florida base’s AICUZ program with airspace and airfield management in the operations group, and in consultation with the wing legal office. 

Chapman sites the DuPont Bridge as an example of how working together can keep communities informed and safe.

The bridge will be replaced soon and will include overlook areas for pedestrians and bicyclists to stop and rest or fish. Over half of the existing bridge that connects the Tyndall AFB peninsula to nearby Panama City and two other communities is in an area identified as Accident Potential Zone 2 because it’s within 3,000 feet of Tyndall’s runway.  

“We have an opportunity to do a better job of informing the community about the risk associated with being in APZ-2,” Chapman said. “During our project review and comment period one of the things we recommended is for the Florida Department of Transportation to post signs on both ends of the bridge alerting pedestrians and drivers that they're entering an air operations APZ-2 area.”  

With the destruction of Hurricane Michael in 2018, the base also has a lot of new construction projects in progress in its airfield district.  

“We’re using the AICUZ study to identify areas where laydown yards, concrete batch plants, infrastructure, new facilities and other obstructions shouldn’t be located,” Chapman said. 

In addition to locations of structures and communities, AICUZ studies provide recommendations for appropriate land uses to local communities within the noise contours generated by the AICUZ study. Local municipalities may or may not adopt these recommendations as part of their land development codes.  

These recommendations also give communities a good idea of what types of building materials should be used when building residential or multi-family homes to mitigate any potential adverse effects from noise where incompatible land uses may already exist. 

“As installation community planners, we make recommendations to our neighboring communities based on AICUZ studies and mission sustainment program guidelines,” Chapman said. 

For installations, the AICUZ study is used on- and off-base to promote collaborative planning with community neighbors and inform reasonable land-use choices that are compatible with aircraft operations. 

“It's very important that an installation be a good member of a community,” Thompson said, “and in my experience, installations that have a good relationship with municipalities outside of the fence have a much easier time getting AICUZ study recommendations adopted into local land use codes.” 

“Open communication and information sharing is a two-way street,” Chapman said, “and very important for each entity to thrive.”

When good relationships are established through long-term shared information – land management practices, zoning, building height restrictions, natural resource management, and noise attenuation measures in construction, for example – are often considered in communities' comprehensive planning process and even in real estate covenants that transfer with the property, Chapman said.  

Since AICUZ studies are comprehensive, an installation can expect a study about every five to 10 years.

“There isn’t a strict definition of when or how often an AICUZ study is conducted,” Thompson said, “but there are key events that can occur at an installation that will make it a more viable candidate for a study.” 

These include things like a significant change in airfield operations since the last study, changes in assigned aircraft such as different engines, bed down of a new mission, and large increases in population or development near an installation.  

For more on the AICUZ program or to reach out to a DAF AICUZ expert, email afcec.cp.aicuznoise@us.af.mil.