Flight routes from airports between Ogden and Salt Lake City are coming to resemble a box of various-size paper clips twisted and stacked together in three spots, ends overlapping.
"Air traffic control is extremely complicated in the 1990s," said Edd Woslum, Federal Aviation Administration manager of the Salt Lake International Airport tower.He spoke Tuesday night to the Compatible Land Use Study Committee, made up of elected officials and planners, which during the next few years is supposed to draft plans for regulating development around Hill.
The idea is to prevent safety and noise conflicts between Hill's flights and surrounding communities.
The mountainous local geography, winds, runway layout, aircraft power and maneuverability and instrument navigation systems all influence flight patterns.
Fewer than 40 miles separate Ogden, Hill, Bountiful's small Sky Park and Salt Lake International. All but Ogden have runways oriented generally from north to south. Routes overlap, but conflict is avoided by keeping airplanes within certain altitudes.
Capt. Peter A. Bailey, chief of Hill's air traffic control operations, said jet fighters approaching the base fly almost directly over Ogden-Hinckley but no lower than 500 feet above the ceiling set for airplanes using the municipal airport.
Similarly, fighters leaving the airport stay below 7,100 feet above sea level, less than 3,000 feet above the ground to avoid Salt Lake airliner traffic.
This results in noise complaints. But Dick Reynolds, FAA assistant manager for programs at Salt Lake, said there really isn't any other way to safely separate all the airplanes zooming along the Wasatch Front.
Riverdale City Administrator Dean Steele, a committee member, said of Hill's noisy jets: "We have often said, `Why can't they fly higher?' "
After the explanation Tuesday, he said, "It helps us to understand there's not a lot of room to change. The patterns are set about where they have to be."
Riverdale and other cities sometimes are caught between property owners wanting to build things that the Air Force doesn't want but has no real power to control.
Bailey said individual airplanes cross Hill runway thresholds, each counted as one operation, 114,000 times annually.
Dennis Coombs, aviation planner for the Wasatch Front Regional Council, said Salt Lake has about 10,000 operations a year and Ogden about 8,000.
Those numbers are expected to grow for the civilian airports as Ogden seeks an instrument-system and Salt Lake builds a third runway that could double its traffic and make it a hub port for more than just Delta.
Woslum said Salt Lake International will have great traffic growth with the new runway, which is still facing legal hurdles but should be ready in 1995.
Col. William R. Rahter, commander of Hill's 2849th Air Base Group, said he doesn't expect the expansion to be a problem for Air Force operations considering the service's good working relationship with the FAA.