Navy eyes Emporia airport

Published 10:15 am Saturday, June 18, 2011

FRANKLIN—Shunned by Franklin, the Navy is now looking at Emporia as a site for pilot training.

The Navy announced Friday that it will begin an environmental assessment of potential effects of E-2 and C-2 turboprop aircraft flight carrier training at Emporia-Greensville Regional Airport.

Navy spokesman Ted Brown said Friday that the training proposed for Emporia is the same program the Franklin City Council twice voted down earlier this year.

The environmental assessment will take about a year to complete, Brown said, at which point, if there is a finding of no significant impact, the Navy will begin negotiations with the city for use of the airport.

A similar environmental assessment was under way in Franklin before the City Council voted to end consideration of the Navy project. The Navy would have used Franklin Municipal Airport to practice touch-and-go operations.

The plan drew heavy opposition from citizens concerned about noise and safety.

Emporia Mayor Sam Adams called the idea “a pretty good fit.”

“We have an airport, they need an airport, and it will form a good partnership between the federal government and the local government,” Adams said.

Adams said he believes the partnership could create economic growth for the area. He doesn’t foresee as big of a problem with noise complaints in his city because of the airport’s location.

“Our airport is located further from downtown than Franklin’s airport,” Adams said. “I think it will be different than what Franklin dealt with.”

Brown said the Navy currently uses Fentress Auxiliary Landing Field in Chesapeake and an airstrip in Florida for the operations. He said use of the airport in Emporia would allow Navy officials to end use of the field in Florida and would help relieve congestion at Fentress.

“We wanted to have something within the region to help relieve the capacity issue at Fentress,” Brown said.

The turboprop planes carry people and cargo to carriers at sea.

Franklin Mayor Jim Councill was not immediately available for comment Friday.