Mary Beth Sallee
Reporter, Hart Co. News-Herald
Low-flying military aircraft have rattled Hart County residents over the past few weeks as many have reported seeing planes maneuver at extremely low levels.
The aircraft have been spotted over Priceville, Munfordville, Canmer, Hardyville, the communities of Monroe and Pascal, and other areas, reportedly roaring over houses and skimming over treetops. Some residents even expressed fears of an imminent crash.
On July 6, farmers in the Canmer area were in a field and described hearing a loud roar coming through the trees around them. They looked up to see three planes with the first one flying low enough that the farmers believed the plane was crashing. One farmer ran for cover and the other said the first plane was flying low enough that he could see its rivets.
On July 15, Stephen Ratliff was working in his garden at his farm on Raider Hollow Road in Munfordville when he saw a low-flying plane overhead.
“(It was) rather unnerving,” Ratliff said. “First thought was it (the plane) was going down. Then I realized there was two more.”
Ratliff described the planes as being “military in appearance” but with no outstanding markings.
That same day, Tracy Keen saw aircraft as well. Keen wrote on a Facebook post that she was at her parents’ home on Hwy. 357 when two planes flew over as she was leaving.
“I seriously thought the first one was gonna crash into the neighbor’s trees,” Keen said. “It was so low. They were heading north.”
Some have described the planes as possibly being C-130 or C-5 military aircraft. Others described the planes as being solid gray in color with no markings anywhere.
The Hart County News-Herald reached out to military stations within the Commonwealth to receive possible reasoning behind the low-flying aircraft.
Benjamin Crane, Air and Army Public Relations with the Army National Guard stated that their branch trains with others in the Louisville area, nowhere near the Hart County area. Also, they typically train using Black Hawk helicopters, not airplanes.
“Traditionally, we get a lot of these complaints based on the training we do in the Frankfort area,” Crane said. “We do fly from here to Greenville, though, so there is potential for our helicopters to be in that area. Now, obviously, we aren’t going to talk about where we do the training and what not, and I’m not one to speak on it…I’m not in aviation. I don’t have anything to do with where helicopters are going.”
“If there’s no markings, it’s definitely not Kentucky National Guard,” Crane added. “Our Air National Guard aircraft is splashed with Kentucky all over the back tail…If it flew that close, they should be able to read all the markings of our National Guard planes…Fort Campbell may have their own aircraft doing their own thing. They’ve got the 101st Airborne there, but they’re mostly air assault, which is all helicopters as well. I couldn’t tell you what a C-130 unmarked airplane would be doing in the skies, especially flying that low, which is a little disturbing.”
Lt. Colonel Stephen Martin, Director of Aviation for the Kentucky Army National Guard, stated that he would venture to say that the planes which Hart County residents are seeing are originating out of Fort Knox.
“In the Kentucky National Guard, we only have helicopters, Black Hawks, that would even be flying in that vicinity, would be Army Reserves,” Martin said. “…Especially being so close to Mammoth Cave, I’m kind of surprised – especially whatever low lying route that they’re flying, that they’re doing – to my mind it’s not Kentucky National Guard related.”
“We also have to be good stewards and good neighbors,” Martin continued. We take pride in flying neighborly and trying to be considerate. Anybody out there disparaging our military name in Kentucky, we take personally.”
According to Kelly Appelman with the Fort Knox Public Affairs Office, she spoke with the Fort Knox Air Field Operations Officer who stated that there were no C-5s or C-130s out of Fort Knox in the Hart County area.
“The C-5s, they come out of California or South Carolina,” Appelman said. “And we haven’t had any C-130s around here, and there’s no unit on post that have either of those aircraft. We just have helicopters here on post.”
Air Force Master Sgt. Phil Speck out of Louisville was also contacted.
“The C-130s that we have, the C-130Js, they have the four engines with propellers, so if it’s those, then those are more likely our aircraft,” Speck said. “If it’s that low, then they should be able to see the markings on the tail. There’s a blue stripe. I’m not saying so low they can read the letters, but it’ll say Kentucky.”
“I can assure you they were flying at a safe altitude,” Speck added. “They are very big aircraft, and if they do fly at a lower altitude, they do appear a lot closer than they actually are. I do know that our pilots maintain a minimum altitude, a safe altitude…I assure you, all of our pilots are highly trained, and we have very strict safety standards. They wouldn’t be flying where it’s dangerous.”
Fort Campbell responded to the Hart County News-Herald via email.
“We have forwarded this on to look into if this is in relation to training from any Fort Campbell units,” Ms. Nondice L. Thurman, Media Relations Officer for the Fort Campbell Public Affairs Office, wrote.
Thurman also stated that individuals can visit the Fort Campbell website at https://home.army.mil/campbell/index.php/about/Garrison/public-affairs/community-relations/noise-complaints for a form to fill out regarding noise and public disturbance complaints individuals think may be related to Fort Campbell.
The Hart County News-Herald will share additional information as it is received.