Field carrier landing practices at Outlying Field Coupeville on the afternoon of June 29, about 3:15 to 5 p.m., used runway no. 32 during a consistent southeast tailwind of about 10-plus mph.
The Growler Environmental Impact Statement states, “The Navy established requirements for FCLP airfields in order to ensure that FCLP realistically trains naval aviators to land on an aircraft carrier … These requirements are crucial because landing on an aircraft carrier is perhaps the most difficult operation in military aviation.”
Please explain, (Capt. Matt Arny), how the pilots mitigated the exacerbated safety risks due to the higher ground speed needed with a tailwind and on the OLF Coupeville runway which, when wet, is 1,100 feet short of the length needed to stop.
Further, since landings/take-offs on an aircraft carrier are always into the wind, please explain how training with a 10-plus mph tailwind mimics conditions Growler pilots experience on a carrier.
Practice sessions with a tailwind at OLF Coupeville were observed before, though not commonly.
Very commonly observed, however, are bounces with a 10-20 mph westerly crosswind. In fact, the vast majority of the OLF spring and summer FCLPs are with winds that align roughly perpendicular to the runway.
The EIS states, “To be suitable for FCLP … the runway [should be] aligned with the prevailing winds.”
Weather also constrains OLF use. In 2017 and 2018, 32 percent and 23 percent practice sessions were canceled at the OLF versus 0 percent and 3 percent at Ault Field.
In a July 28, 2017 internal email, Capt. Moore laments, “In 2015/2016, 33 of 101 [one-third] scheduled OLF Coupeville fly days were canceled — primarily for wind constraints and weather ceilings.”
None of this is consistent with Navy rhetoric that the OLF is a uniquely great training venue. Instead, it indicates the OLF is less than the ideal training venue promoted and that other locations would provide more realistic training.
Because Growlers have to train with their fighter counterparts on the East Coast and in the Southwest, that would seem to provide excellent opportunities for scheduling FCLPs in places like El Centro, mitigating deployment solely for FCLPs.
Thank you for considering needed solutions to these OLF Coupeville problems and shortcomings.
Robert Wilbur, board of directors
Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve