Air Guard Launches Public Campaign On F-35's

04/13/10 5:50PM By Lynne McCrea
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AP Photo/LM Otero

(Host) The Vermont Air National Guard has launched a public campaign to explain how a new generation of fighter jet might affect communities around its base at the Burlington airport.

Burlington is one of eleven national finalists to host F-35 jets, which would replace the Guard's existing fleet of F-16s.

As VPR's Lynne McCrea reports, the Guard wants to explain how much noise the jets would create.

(McCrea) The Air Guard says there's been a lot of information - and misinformation - floating around on websites and in blogs on the topic of the F-35.

A study is under way about how the environment would be affected if the F-35 were based in Burlington. And a series of information sessions with community leaders has begun.

An early study done at Eglin Air Force Base has often been quoted in the media about what kind of noise the more powerful planes would create.

But Lt. Colonel Chris Caputo says there's a more recent environmental impact statement at Edwards Air Force Base that's much more relevant to the Burlington base. He says the Eglin E.I.S. study is not a valid comparison.

(Caputo) "You cannot compare the information in the Eglin EIS, to the current EIS going on right now. It'll be based on the most, latest and greatest noise data conducted at Edwards Air Force Base - test data, dated April '09 that has been publicly releasable."

(McCrea)  Caputo says the latest data show that the F-35 is on average 5 to 7 decibels louder than the F-16, but that many variables have to be taken into account in that measurement.

Assistant Adjutant General Steve Cray says the Air Guard is sensitive to the public's concerns.

(Cray) "I'll remind you - 600 members of the Guard live in these communities that surround the airport. So when we say, ‘They - or the Air Force or Air Guard' - that is us. We all are part of these discussions that are going along in our communities. So it's not a ‘us versus them.' It's all of us, and it's important for us to discuss that.

(McCrea) And Cray reminds people that the Air Guard has been flying jet aircraft in the area since 1953.

(Cray) "We have specific procedures that we use for the F-16. We used it for the F-4, we used it for all the aircraft, ‘cuz we understand the community is affected by noise ... and we will do the same thing for the F-35."

(McCrea) Impact studies for the Burlington base will be available later this summer, when there will be time for public comment.

For VPR News, I'm Lynne McCrea 

(Host) The Air National Guard plans to hold a briefing session on Thursday with public leaders in Burlington, Williston, Winooski, Essex, Essex Junction and Colchester.  



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