Navy hears earful from IOW residents

Published 9:22 am Friday, October 29, 2010

Local officials watch as a turboprop aircraft simulates a touch-and-go at Franklin Municipal Airport on Wednesday. -- Nicholas Langhorne | Tidewater News

FRANKLIN—Isle of Wight residents gave Navy officials an earful Wednesday about the potential use of Franklin Municipal Airport for field carrier landing practice.

Residents, some very passionate, brought concerns about safety, noise and economic impacts on their homes. The county and the Navy sponsored the meeting at the Isle of Wight/Franklin Skating Rink after the Navy’s second demonstration of touch-and-gos at the airport.

The touch-and-gos allow pilots to simulate landing on the deck of an aircraft carrier.

“This is step one,” Cmdr. Matt Baker told the crowd of concerned citizens. “We still have a lot of analysis to get done so that we can answer your questions.”

The Rev. Ryland Warren lives near the airport on Airport Drive. He said his biggest concern is safety.

“The noise is bad,” he said. “But the issue is if they have a catastrophe, how are they going to deal with it?”

Navy officials said the turboprop C-2 and E-2 planes that would be training at the airport have an extremely good safety record and officials would be trained to respond to emergencies.

Carlene Bowers, who lives on Route 258 near the airport, said she heard the planes at her home, but it wasn’t any louder than the military helicopters that currently train at the airport.

She’s waiting to hear the results of the Navy’s environmental study, which are expected next year.

“I think in the long run it might be a little premature to think about running and selling your home or anything like that,” she said. “But the economic impact is something for the homeowners to really consider.”

While there are concerns, Bowers said it’s important that pilots are able to train.

“They’ve got to be able to fly the jets off of the carriers in order to be able to help us defense-wise,” she said.

Ted Brown, a media relations officer for the U.S. Fleet Forces Command, said some training must be done at night. He said the Navy would “strive to get done as early as possible.”

In the summer, he said, when sunsets don’t occur until late in the evening, three-hour training blocks could last until around midnight.

“That’s only in the summer months, when the sun sets at a later time,” Brown said. “Obviously, we’d get done much earlier in the winter.”

Several residents asked about compensation for the Navy’s use of the airport. Mark Anthony, the director of shore support to fleet readiness, said there were no plans for any compensation for the use of the airport.

Negotiations, he said, are strictly for the services that would be provided for the Navy.

Warren said he could “just about see the pilots” from his yard as the planes flew by.

“I think the city of Franklin is looking at revenue,” he said. “It’s affecting the people in this county more so than it’s affecting the people in the city of Franklin.”

Joe Vaughan, who’s lived on Route 258 at the end of the airport runway for 50 years, said the military helicopters vibrate his home as they pass through. The turboprop planes, he said, weren’t nearly as bad.

“I’d rather have the planes than the helicopters,” he said. “I have heard louder trucks on the highway in front of the house.”

However, he is concerned about the number of planes that could be training at one time.

“If they bring the amount that they say they want to bring in,” he said, “the noise would be so steady, you wouldn’t be able to hear much in the house.”

“I think it’s a done deal,” Warren said.