Changes in Franklin require rejection of Navy plans

Published 8:03 am Wednesday, February 2, 2011

by Joe McGuire

On Jan. 24, I attended the Franklin City Council meeting with other concerned citizens who expressed their opposition to Navy planes training in Franklin.

After reading the proposed city-Navy “performance work statement” that was released on The Tidewater News website on Jan. 26, I was appalled by the lack of candor from the mayor, city manager and City Council on this subject. This information was in hand even before the City Council meeting was held on Jan. 24.

The mayor and City Council are elected by Franklin citizens to represent the city and community at large. The safety of citizens, making wise economic decisions and the overall success of the city are their sworn duty.

Looking back at the past, the Town of Franklin of 1947 no longer exists. The City of Franklin in 2011 is far different than the forested, rural/agricultural town of 1947.

The airfield perimeter was not populated by as many people as it is today. We have a city much expanded by the annexation of land from Southampton County.

There are widespread residential neighborhoods and a much larger economic zone beyond the core town. We have a hospital, high school, YMCA and many other public and private facilities throughout the city that may be impacted by the Navy training decision at hand.

With little to no involvement from our citizens, the mayor, city manager and City Council have entered into negotiations with the Navy. Many of us are opposed to this partnership and the potential impact on the city and residents by the Navy field carrier landing practices.

I am an honorably retired U.S. Marine. My support of our servicemen and servicewomen is a given. Common sense, though, comes into consideration at this point in time. Franklin is not the best-suited airport for Navy field carrier landing practices.

We as a community have now the potential of an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 landing practices annually, operating 15 to 20 days per month, 10 to 12 months per year. The Navy would conduct 100 passes per day in three-hour increments.

Folks, turboprop high-performance engines are powered by highly flammable jet fuel. We will be exposed to a far greater risk of potential in-flight accidents and fuel dumping in the event of an in-flight emergency.

The degree of banking by the planes does not allow much margin of error or recovery in the event of an in-flight emergency over our city. This can happen in our community without our approval.

Many of you are aware of the annual migration of Canada geese and other species of wild birds. This is a daily occurrence during migration and nesting season at dusk and at early dawn. The risk of collision with the planes is a direct possibility.

The citizens of Franklin and Isle of Wight have the right to express their personal views and be heard by our elected officials. If you are satisfied with our elected officials’ decision on the Navy landing practices, do nothing.

If you have concerns for our community and our current way of life, express them to our elected officials.

Remember, we have less than 30 days to be heard. Once the Navy planes are in our community, they are going to be here until the Navy has no further need for Franklin Municipal Airport service. As a community we can compromise with a “NO” vote but not with a “YES” vote.

JOE MCGUIRE is a Franklin resident and International Paper Co. retiree. He can be reached at