Larsen looks to ease jet noise impact

It’s no secret Congressman Rick Larsen supports the Navy, so much so that he said he doesn’t see Naval Air Station Whidbey Island going anywhere.

It’s no secret Congressman Rick Larsen supports the Navy, so much so that he said he doesn’t see Naval Air Station Whidbey Island going anywhere.

“It’s not going to happen,” he said. “Not on my watch.”

But he said he’s also trying to listen to all of his constituents, including the ones who vehemently want not just quieter skies but the Navy jets gone.

For the past few years, he’s explored ways to find middle ground. After a marathon late night session lasat Thursday with the House Armed Services Committee, he succeeded in getting language inserted in the National Defense Authorization Act that would push forward the development and implementation of software that could reduce the number of touch-and-go practices needed for EA-18G Growler pilots to qualify for carrier landings.

If implemented, that could potentially reduce noise at the Outlying Field at Coupeville — a source of contention for people who live near the runway and beyond.

In the same bill, Larsen squeezed in language that would allow nutrition services for military families with young children to operate on bases without any charges, other than utilities. He and Sen. Patty Murray pushed for the move after the military moved to close the Women Infants and Children’s program at the Seaplane Base and other bases.

The federal government decided to stop allowing “non-federal entities” to use buildings on base rent-free as a cost saving measure.

His voice still scratchy from the all-night session, Larsen talked by phone from Washington D.C.

“I’m hearing the concerns of the community about jet noise and trying my best to thread the needle, assuring that NAS Whidbey continues to be the premier home base for Growlers,” he said.

The Navy has performed flight tests with software that would help aviators maintain constant guide slope through approach on landing.

If the bill is approved, the Secretary of the Navy would be directed to report to the House Armed Services Committee in September on the software, including a timeline for delivery to the fleet.

This is one of several solutions to jet noise Larsen is supporting. The others are a “hush house” for NAS Whidbey — a specially-designed hangar that muffles noise from engine tests and ongoing research into attachments to jet engines called chevrons that could muffle jet noise without sacrificing engine performance.

The problem with that last one, he said, is tests on the chevrons show they are effective in reducing noise to about 80 percent power — but obviously jet engines don’t operate at 80 percent power.

He’s also encouraged the Navy to conduct noise monitoring in the San Juan Islands as part of an environmental impact statement that will determine how many Growlers will be located at NAS Whidbey.

Concerns about jet noise extend well beyond Coupeville, he said.

“The Navy continues to do research,” he said. “I have pressed them to continue. This research is important to me.”