Military Flights Over Public Lands

A fighter jet flies through a desert canyon.

NPS/Kessler

R- 2508 Airspace Complex

The airspace over much of the upper Mojave Desert and southern Sierra Nevada is a special military-use "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 vast areas of public land, including Death Valley National Park!

Where do they fly in the park?

Flights occur in most areas of the park:

  • In the portion of the park which was originally Death Valley National Monument, the military voluntarily restricts their flights to 3,000 feet vertically and laterally (this started in 1977). These flights will be high above you and you may not even notice them.
  • Areas of the park added after 1977 are not subject to this voluntary restriction and the flights can be as low as 200 feet, with exceptions. These are mostly remote areas and include places such as Eureka Valley and Saline Valley.

When do they fly?

Low level flying normally occurs during daylight hours, but night mission training and testing is also 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. Low training flights can be accompanied by a sudden loud roar (which can be startling), followed by a possible split second glimpse of a plane, then the aircraft is gone.

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

Last updated: April 26, 2022

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Death Valley , CA 92328

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