This week, I witnessed firsthand the dangers we are facing with the increased number of Growlers practicing around Outlying Landing Field Coupeville.
Growler jets were doing touch-and-goes at OLF around 3 p.m.
Two jets were flying so erratic, and so close to each other, that I feared they would make a wrong turn, fly into each other, or to the ground. If they were flying at night, the outcome might have been catastrophic.
In March, the Navy announced it would increase the number of Growler practices from 6,000 to 24,000.
The result is many more new and inexperienced pilots are being sent to our region to learn how to fly the high power Growler jets, at the same time as practice maneuvers over unknown terrain, trees, homes, buildings, roads and people, both day and night, unable to see below.
With more inexperienced pilots flying at dangerously low and inaccurate angles, more residents and pilots are in greater danger.
I, like many, want to see a balanced resolution to lessen the risks we all now face with the increased number of inexperienced pilots practicing more touch-and-goes over our populated areas.
Community members are recommending ideas including the following.
• Limit OLF flying to experienced fighter pilots, not inexperienced pilots who are newly learning how to fly the powerful Growler, while at the same time doing touch and goes over unknown terrain, with high trees and dense population;
• Limit number of experienced pilots to two during night flying; OLF doesn’t have a control tower, and four-plus experienced pilots flying at one time is too dangerous. Four-plus inexperienced pilots flying is even greater.
• Limit night practices to 5-9 p.m., during November to March when dark nights are earlier, and not on weekends, except when deploying.
• Explore options of inexperienced pilots flying practices over unpopulated air/land fields, which have similar sea level, and under used landing strips, such as Joint Base Lewis McChord.
We call on the local commanding officer, M.L. Arny, captain, U.S. Navy, to publicly respond to these safety concerns, and state ways the Navy is assuring our communities and pilots are safe from potentially fatal jet accidents.