Worth exploring

Published 2:36 pm Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The City of Franklin is wise to entertain the possibility of contracting with the Navy to host practice touch-and-go landings for turboprop aircraft at Franklin Municipal Airport.

The Navy announced last month that it is looking for public or private airfields in southeast Virginia or northeast North Carolina as alternative places to land the E-2 Hawkeye and C-2 Greyhound, some of which are currently being sent to Florida five to six times a year for the practice landings.

The contract could create an important new revenue stream for Western Tidewater’s only airport, which will be hurt by the closing of International Paper Co.’s nearby Franklin mill and the mill’s suppliers.

A viable airport that accommodates private aircraft is important for economic development in the region. Many companies own their own airplanes and use small fields like Franklin Municipal to get quickly in and out of communities they serve, instead of having to drive an hour or more to a commercial airport.

Area residents should not confuse this project with the Navy’s proposed Outlying Landing Field, where pilots of fighter jets would practice their landings. Western Tidewater residents, for valid reasons, have resisted the Navy’s efforts to place an OLF in these parts.

Turboprop planes are much quieter than jets and wouldn’t disrupt the quality of life for people who live near the airport and who already are used to the sound of aircraft coming and going.

We commend city leaders for their open-mindedness and willingness to consider the potential benefits of a partnership with the Navy.