Navy officer predicts change of heart on OLF

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 17, 2008

NORFOLK—Rear Adm. David Anderson believes that by the end of the Navy’s environmental review of five sites under consideration for the proposed outlying landing field, some of the host counties will actually be competing with each other for the chance to host the controversial training facility.

Considering the virulent opposition the idea has encountered thus far, such a statement may seem to be in the realm of fantasy to many involved in the process. But Anderson and other Navy officials believe they can apply the lessons they learned in fighting for a now-abandoned Washington County, N.C., site to build support for such a facility in one of the locations they are now considering in Virginia and North Carolina.

Things have changed since the Navy first identified that North Carolina location as its favored place to put an airstrip that would be used for field carrier landing practice, he said during an interview in his office at an annex to Naval Station Norfolk on Thursday.

The Navy’s operational needs have changed, its readiness requirements have increased and Chesapeake’s Fentress Naval Auxiliary Landing Field has become more congested with pilots training to land on aircraft carriers.

“It’s no longer just an encroachment issue,” he said. “It’s a capacity issue.”

One thing that has not changed in that period, he said, is the Navy’s determination to find a place to satisfy its needs for safely training its pilots.

“This is a valid requirement, not just for the Navy but for the nation,” he said of the OLF. “The future viability of Oceana hinges on finding this OLF.”

See Sunday’s print edition of The Tidewater News for more coverage of Thursday’s interview with Anderson.