IOW opposes Navy training

Published 11:03 am Saturday, November 20, 2010

Cmdr. Matt Baker talks to the Franklin Rotary Club on Friday about the Navy's proposal to use the Franklin Airport for field carrier landing practice. -- Nicholas Langhorne | Tidewater News

ISLE OF WIGHT—The Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Thursday to go on record opposing the Navy’s plan to use Franklin Municipal Airport for practice operations for turboprop aircraft stationed in Norfolk.

Former Board Chairman Phillip Bradshaw said residents in the Carrsville District overwhelmingly oppose the plan.

“I think it’s the way it’s been handled, and there are so many issues and so many things that are unknown,” he said.

The action, however, may not hold weight with the Navy.

“I think we have to realize that just us supporting a motion doesn’t mean it’s going to have much impact on what the Navy does, but I think we have an obligation to lend our support to your citizens,” Newport District Supervisor Stan Clark told Bradshaw.

Franklin Mayor Jim Councill said Friday he was disappointed by the action because county officials had initially expressed support.

“I’m a little surprised, but not completely because they’ve had some response and reaction by some of their residents that have some legitimate questions at this point,” he said. “I think it’s way too early to tell about anything until we have the additional demonstration.”

An additional flight demonstration is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 14.

Bradshaw said the county had been “left out of the loop” during the process by the City of Franklin and the Navy, despite the airport being located in Isle of Wight County.

“We’ve been told one thing, and something else has happened,” he said.

Bradshaw said as soon as the Navy announced its intentions last month, county officials began investigating the possible impact.

“We did not sit back and wait for people to come to us,” he said. “We took the initiative to try to figure out what was going on.”

Ted Brown, a media relations officer for the U.S. Fleet Forces Command, said the Navy is still “very early in the process” and there are still a lot of unknowns.

“As more information becomes available, I would hope that perhaps they would be able to reconsider that vote,” he said Friday.

A number of residents from the southern end of the county addressed the board and expressed their opposition to the plan Thursday. One resident even suggested the exercises — which would close the airport to outside traffic during training blocks — could affect the county’s ability to lure companies to the shuttered International Paper mill site.

“I think we are feeding somebody’s political ego,” county resident Elaine Butler said.

Bradshaw called the Emporia-Greensville Regional Airport “an ideal location” to host the touch-and-go practice and said officials there were interested.

“That airfield is larger than this airfield, that airfield can be expanded and there is no populated area around it,” he said.

The Emporia-Greensville airport, like the Franklin airport, responded to the Navy’s original request for proposals to host the touch-and-go landings. That process was terminated when the Navy discovered it had an existing real estate interest in the Franklin airport.

Cmdr. Matt Baker told the Franklin Rotary Club on Friday that the Navy plans to be a good neighbor and said the plan was “not a done deal.”

“We are very eager to meet with groups and individuals who are interested in this project and have concerns about this project so that we can provide them with all of the information that we have available,” Brown said.

The Navy hopes to begin using the airport for C-2 Greyhound and E-2 Hawkeye aircraft by January 2012.