KAILUA-KONA (AP) - The Army wants to build four new helicopter landing zones on Mauna Loa's northern slope to give aviation unit soldiers more high-altitude training.
The new zones would be built about 8,500 feet to 8,800 feet above sea level within Pohakuloa Training Area.
Pohakuloa's landing zones would increase to 35 from 31 if the plan is approved.
An environmental assessment says the Army doesn't plan to increase its training flights once the landing zones are built. The Army estimates 10 percent of Pohakuloa training flights would use the new landing zones.
The Army says it needs the new zones to prepare soldiers to complete their missions and to enable them to meet proficiency requirements for operating in mountainous, high-altitude areas.
The military is also seeking to build a single-lane access trail and a trail linking the landing zones.
The public has through Jan. 18 to comment on the environmental assessment. The report is available on the state Department of Health's Office of Environmental Quality Control website and on the U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii website for the National Environmental Policy Act program. It may also be found at public libraries on the Big Island.
Flights using the landing zones would originate at Bradshaw Army Airfield within Pohakuloa, which sits in between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea volcanoes. The helicopters would follow a flight path within Pohakuloa airspace.
Helicopters using the landing zones would include the AH-64 Class Apache, UH-60 Class Black Hawk, CH-47 Class Chinook, OH-58D Kiowa Warrior and UH-72A Series Lakota.
The Army says it plans to conduct most flights during the day to allow birds to roost at night. It also intends to avoid using landing zones when nesting birds are observed within 100 meters of the area.
The estimated cost of constructing the trails and landing zones would be less than $650,000.