Noise, safety issues persist near field
September 18, 2012 · Updated 3:07 PM
After a recent tour of the Navy’s Ault Field, I was impressed with the enthusiasm and training operation I was allowed to see.
It must be a tremendous challenge to keep ahead of potential enemies in technology, equipment and the personnel to effectively use it.
But noise and safety issues for the Navy’s neighbors do concern me. After the recent Navy Hornet crash in Virginia Beach, I realize that risk is ever present, if rare.
And I believe that the Navy could find a better compromise with risk and noise to be more considerate of us civilian neighbors.
Three out of four Ault Field runways terminate at or near water. The fourth extends predominantly over low density government land until Crescent Harbor.
The Navy could make a better effort to fly over water to decrease risk and noise. Yet their aircraft controllers seem to direct air traffic without consideration of Whidbey’s population below.
Their radar screens don’t even indicate Whidbey’s land mass, just the runways. They do direct traffic clear of the Navy hospital and kids’ school. But what about the rest of us?
The P3s (propeller planes) deploy sub listening devices while flying 200 feet above water. So skimming North Whidbey’s treetops is second nature to these talented pilots. But it’s noisier and riskier to those below.
Prowlers and Growlers practice carrier landings, circling above Whidbey Island land to repeat touch-and-gos. These planes could follow a larger loop, flying over water before returning to Base.
They could “stack” above the runway, flying in circles like layers of a cake, descending in turn to land, just as they do with aircraft carriers at sea.
This “stack” could be at higher altitude, predominantly over government land, and quieter with less risk to us neighbors.
Why isn’t the Navy more considerate of us neighbors? Because it would be slightly less convenient. Because they are preoccupied with training. Because they have the power to do so.
With a genuine effort to respect the civilian neighbors nearby, I’m convinced that the Navy could do much to reduce risk and noise.
The sound of freedom has become more like the deafening roar of war. It doesn’t have to be that way.