A military plane that circled Tucumcari for about a half hour Tuesday night could become a routine happening in the area.
A Cannon Air Force Base spokesperon confirmed the plane – which had many residents worried and local officials preparing for an emergency – was a U.S. Air Force plane conducting a routine training mission.
The plane is one of two AC-130H Spectre gunships from the 16th Special Operations Squadron (16th SOS) at Hurlburt Field, Fla., now operating out of Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis, said Capt. Mae-Li Allison, chief of public affairs at Cannon.
The nature of the gunship mission calls for much of the training to be conducted in urban areas, said16th Special Operations Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Sean
Farrell in a press release.
"When we deploy, we will often be flying over cities and tracking targets within those cities under the cover of night," Farrell said in te release. "So when we train at Cannon, it is imperative that some of our operations be done over cities at night as well."
Local residents may notice the low rumbling of gunships flying in circles overhead as aircrew perform training, flying at an altitude in which the oxygen is sufficient because the aircraft is not pressurized, the release said.
"Much of what we'll be doing is adjusting our sensors as we practice acquiring targets," said Farrell in the release. "That will require us to fly in circles around the target. The communities we're flying in will hear us, but we will do our best to fly at altitudes that will limit the amount of noise. We want to be good neighbors, too."
Because the AC-130H Spectre generally flies at night, most missions will take place Monday through Thursday.
On Tuesday night, resident Tommy Bauler said, “I thought it was trying to burn off fuel. I didn’t know what it was. It was pretty odd that it would fly a tight circle 20 to 30 times over Tucumcari."
“It was out of the ordinary,” said Tucumcari Fire Chief Mike Cherry.