Military Flights over Public Lands

A fighter jet flies through a desert canyon.


R- 2508 Airspace Complex

Over a large area of the upper Mojave Desert and souther Sierra Nevada is a special military-use airspace "complex" known as R-2508. This complex stretches approximately 140 miles from north to south (Bishop to Edwards Air Force Base) and 100 miles east to west (the Nevada State Line to Tehachapi.) This airspace overlies large amounts of public land - including Death Valley National Park!

Where do they fly in the park?

In most of the park - the portion that was originally Death Valley National Monument - the military voluntary restricts their flight to 3,000 feet vertically and laterally (this started in 1977.) These flights will be high above you and you might not even notice them.

Areas added to the park after 1977 are not subject to this voluntary restriction and the flights can be as low as 200 feet with exceptions. These areas are mostly remote, but there is one popular viewing location on Highway 190, Father Crowley's Vista Point.

When do they fly?

Low level flying normally occurs during daylight hours, but night mission training and testing is performed to ensure pilot readiness and systems effectiveness in combat situations. Continuing technical advances in night vision systems may increase the number of night flights to test these systems.

What will you see and hear?

Military aircraft are built with sophisticated systems designed for speed and evasive tactics. Sometimes, you will not see or hear an aircraft approaching until it is directly overhead or nearby. There could be a sudden roar which can be startling, followed by a possible split second glimpse of a silhouette, then the aircraft is gone.

This information was adapted from the handout provided by the Edwards Air Force Base.

Last updated: April 21, 2019

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