02 May Let’s Support Our Neighbors petition for an OLF
In recent news posts I have talked about the importance of pushing our US Senators and Congressmen to find funding and a site for an outlying field for practice take offs and landing for JSF35-B trainees, the number of which is growing.
MIND YOU, THIS IS NOT IN ANY WAY IN OPPOSITION TO THE PROGRAM I SUPPORTED. I HAVE HUGE RESPECT FOR MCAS BEAUFORT AND THE MEN AND WOMEN IN UNIFORM. I UNDERSTAND THE BENEFITS THE OPERATION BRINGS TO BEAUFORT AND THE LONG TERM STABILITY TO OUR LOCAL ECONOMY.
IT IS TO SAY THAT I AM FOLLOWING UP ON MY PROMISE WHEN WE SUPPORTED THE PROGRAM TO FIGHT FOR AN OUTLYING FIELD WHEN NECESSARY. GIVEN THE LENGTH OF TIME REQUIRED TO FUND AND CREATE AN OLF, THAT TIME IS COMING.
MANY WEST OF BEAUFORT IN THE BURTON AND TO THE EAST THOSE ON NORTHERN LADYS ISLAND HAVE ALREADY EXPERIENCED DISRUPTION. DURING THE USE OF THE SHORTER RUN WAY, WHILE THE LONGER RUNWAY IS BEING REPAVED, THOSE TO THE NORTH AND SOUTH OF MCAS HAVE EXPERIENCED INCREASED INCONVENIENCE. SO WITH NUMEROUS COMPLAINTS NOW COMING FROM ALL FOUR SIDES OF MCAS, IT SEEMS NOW IS THE TIME TO ROLL OUT THE PETITION WHICH SOME OF OUR NEIGHBORS LAUNCHED LAST WEEK.
I urge you to read the rationale and sign the petition. This is NOT a statement about MCAS, but rather the Congress following up on what many have agreed would one day be a necessity. If you are interested you can go back to the original environmental impact statement when many of your elected officials and community members predicated support based on their one day being an outlying field if necessary.
The City of Beaufort, the Town of Port Royal and Beaufort County Council have each adopted resolutions calling for the creation of an outlying landing field (OLF) to be used for some of the F-35B training. Most recently, Mayor Billy Keyserling has said to look for a petition drive in support of an OLF. Why an OLF?
• In 2014, before the major new F-35B training mission began, MCAS Beaufort indicates that there were 13,771 flight operations conducted at the Air Station. With the start of training, 106,030 flight operations per year are authorized for MCAS Beaufort, a possible increase of over 90,000 operations.
• At the April 2016 Lady’s Island Business and Professional Association meeting, the Commander of the F-35B squadron stated that flight operations are expected to increase by 30% in 2016 over 2015 levels, and another 30% increase in 2017.
• An OLF would allow for the removal of over a third of the F-35B training operations away from Beaufort, and reduce significantly the safety and noise impact in the areas surrounding the Air Station.
• MCAS/Beaufort is the only Marine fighter training facility without an OLF.
WHY MODIFICATION OF OPERATIONAL RULES AND FLIGHT PATTERNS?
When the F-18 became the primary aircraft in 1994, the Air Station adopted operational rules and flight patterns to avoid flying over populated areas at low altitudes. The 1994 AICUZ study prepared by the Navy for MCAS Beaufort said that “…noise abatement procedures have been prepared to provide strict guidance to pilots and air traffic controllers. Although typically implemented in response to community noise complaints, many of these procedures serve a dual purpose by minimizing accident-potential hazards.”
• The procedures referenced in the 1994 AICUZ study included a mandatory 2,000 feet minimum requirement when flying over populated areas and a required alteration in flight path to avoid flying over downtown Beaufort.
• There are no comparable requirements established for the F-35B training in the most recent 2013 AICUZ, although the increase in air operations places more flights over areas that have become more populated.
• The Air Station has two runways, and both will be used for F-35B training.
• Department of Defense guidelines urge the inclusion of noise abatement procedures and risk mitigation measures in any AICUZ study. There are hundreds of acres of open and unpopulated land surrounding MCAS Beaufort that offer the Air Station many options to conform to these guidelines while accomplishing the mission at hand.