Airport interested in touch-and-go Navy landings

Published 8:20 am Friday, April 30, 2010

FRANKLIN—The City of Franklin is interested in contracting with the Navy to allow practice touch-and-go landings for two types of turboprop aircraft at Franklin Municipal Airport.

Meanwhile, another airfield in the area, Emporia-Greensville Regional Airport, could also be interested.

In a letter dated April 22 to the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, City Manager June Fleming said, “On behalf of the City of Franklin (and) Franklin Municipal Airport, I would like to express our interest in the possibility of contracting with the Navy for the use of the Franklin Municipal Airport.”

The Navy announced on April 2 that it is looking for public or private airfields in southeast Virginia or northeast North Carolina as alternative places to land about 50 planes, E-2 Hawkeye and C-2 Greyhound aircraft, some of which are currently being sent to Florida five to six times a year for the practice landings. The E-2 is an aircraft used as an airborne early warning system, while the C-2 is used for logistical purposes.

Rick Franklin, the executive director for the Emporia-Greensville Regional Airport, said Tuesday his facility’s governing commission would discuss the proposal.

“We are going to bring it before the Emporia-Greensville Airport Commission today to determine if they are interested,” Franklin said.

The southeast corner of Emporia-Greensville Regional Airport, including a portion of the main runway, is in Southampton County.

Ted Brown, media relations officer for the Navy’s Fleet Public Affairs Office, said earlier this month the Navy could conceivably enter into contracts with more than one airfield. He added that it had not yet been determined how much the contracts would be worth to the host airfield.

Although the Navy described the turboprop aircraft as “significantly quieter than jet aircraft,” it still plans to submit a request for proposals to airfields interested in the proposal and will analyze the impacts to the airfield, including noise to the community. The timeframe for the project is expected to be about two years.

Prospective airfields would need to have a runway at least 5,000 feet in length, nearest 100 feet, and 100 feet in width. The runway would also need to be able to support a 25,000-pound single gear weight and be within 90 nautical miles — roughly 103.5 miles — of Naval Station Norfolk, the home base for the planes.

According to data from the Virginia Department of Aviation, seven other airfields in the state satisfy the Navy’s requirements, including the international airports at Richmond, Newport News and Norfolk, and Chesapeake Regional Airport. The other facilities are in Chesterfield, Hanover and Accomack counties.

Data from the North Carolina Department of Transportation indicate at least three airfields in that state — Currituck County Airport, Elizabeth City Regional Airport and Northeastern Regional Airport in Edenton — also meet the Navy’s requirements.

Brown said the Navy currently sends most of the E-2 and C-2 planes to Naval Air Station Jacksonville and Naval Outlying Landing Field Whitehouse in Florida five to six times a year for the practice landings because of capacity issues at Naval Auxiliary Landing Field Fentress in Chesapeake. He added that the Navy was still looking to construct an Outlying Landing Field to support Naval Air Station Oceana somewhere in either Western Tidewater or northeast North Carolina.

In August, the Navy announced that the release of an environmental impact statement over the proposed OLF would be postponed, possibly until the spring, as the Navy decides where to station its new fighter plane, the F-35C Joint Strike Fighter.