Navy turboprop simulates landing at Franklin Airport

Published 9:19 am Friday, October 29, 2010

FRANKLIN—Residents and officials in Franklin and Isle of Wight got a chance to see and hear turboprop aircraft simulate field carrier landing practice at Franklin Municipal Airport Wednesday.

The Navy is currently in talks to use the airport in southern Isle of Wight for practice landings for E-2 and C-2 turboprop aircraft stationed in Norfolk. Field carrier landing practice simulates landing on aircraft carriers.

Two E-2C aircraft entered the flight pattern over the airport at about 12:30 p.m. and again at 6 p.m. and each simulated four touch-and-go landings.

“We have due diligence to do, but I think we really can get to a really good win-win for the Navy and the citizens of Isle of Wight and Franklin,” said Adm. John C. Harvey, commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command.

Kevin Nock of Franklin was among the people gathered at the airport to watch the demonstration.

“I think it’s what Franklin needs,” Kevin Nock said after the demonstration. “There’s very little noise from the turboprops and it would give us some economic development. I know they’re just doing touch-and-gos right now, but eventually they’re going to pump some money into our system.”

Nock said he didn’t find the planes loud at all.

“I’d rather hear our planes than somebody else’s,” he said.

Bill Nock, who is Kevin Nock’s father, said it’s better to use an existing field than to build a new one for the practices. He said the noise shouldn’t be an issue.

“You can’t have airfields in this country—unless you’re in the desert somewhere—where somebody doesn’t complain about the noise and I think it’s just foolish,” he said.

“That’s your guardian,” Bill Nock added. “Put up with them.”

The Navy has an existing real estate interest in the Franklin airport, but plans to negotiate for the cost of certain services. Franklin Mayor Jim Councill said Wednesday it’s still too early to estimate the exact economic benefits to the city.

“We’re excited about this partnership,” he said.

Asa Johnson is the chairman of the Village at Woods Edge’s board of directors and a resident. He said the possibility of the airport, located just across the Blackwater River, being used for touch-and-gos is a concern, especially safety and noise issues.

“I think the Navy’s wonderful and I understand why they need a place to do this,” he said. “I just wish Franklin wasn’t so convenient.”

Johnson said planes during the 12:30 demonstration flew right over the Village’s apartments.

“Once this thing gets settled, and if they start using Franklin and there are planes flying in an out of here six to eight hours a day—and night—it’s going to be tough to sell the village as a nice quiet rural place to live.”

Harvey stressed that the potential use of the airport for field carrier landing practice is “a very separate issue” from the Navy’s search for an outlying landing field in Western Tidewater or Northeastern North Carolina.

“What this does is allow us to relieve today’s pressure at Fentress. That’s what’s so important about this right now,” he said. “So please separate this from the bigger issue of an outlying field for the future.”

Bernice Mayfield and her husband, Richard, live in Newsoms, but came out the the airport to watch the demonstration,

“I enjoy all of this sightseeing,” she said.

Phillip Bradshaw, chairman of the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors, said the county’s top concerns were the citizens and emergency services that could possibly be impacted by the practice landings.

“We’re working collectively where we can all benefit,” he said, adding that 40 percent of the Hampton Roads economy is based on the military.

“Even though we do not have military presence directly at this time in Franklin or Isle of Wight County or even Southampton County, we still benefit from the military presence that’s east of us,” Bradshaw said.

Currently, capacity issues at Navy Auxiliary Landing Field Fentress force the E-2/C-2 Fleet Replacement Squadron to conduct out-of-area FCLP operations in Jacksonville, Fla., four to six times per year. That need would be eliminated if the Navy were able to successfully negotiate for the use of the airport.