UPDATE: Beaufort Committee Explores Alternate Landing Field for - Local news, weather, sports Savannah | WSAV On Your Side

Beaufort Groups Worry F-35B Noise Will Be Unbearable

UPDATE: Beaufort Committee Explores Alternate Landing Field for F-35B

Posted: Updated:
BEAUFORT, S.C. -

As the Marine Corps Air Station prepares to train pilots to fly the F-35B, one of the loudest jets there are, neighborhoods are bracing themselves for the noise from the skies. Groups in protest of the Joint Strike Fighter now demand an alternate landing field be installed, or else they feel their quality of life will suffer. The Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce says their Military Enhancement Committee has appointed a group to explore the options for installing an alternate landing field in the future. 

Robert Pollard's Lady's Island home sits in a row of homes with backyards that face the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS). "It's going to be a lot of flights with a plane that's about three times louder than what we have now," Pollard says.

He and a group he is a part of, Best 4 Beaufort, have been expressing their desire for an alternate landing field to the City of Beaufort and the Military Enhancement Committee. 

"The noise intensity might be such that we need to, and we should, start looking for what is called an offsite landing field, or an alternative landing field," Mayor Billy Keyserling says. 

Keyserling says he fully supports Beaufort's military presence and welcomes the F-35B to Beaufort, but also believes an alternate landing field could become necessary. However, he says the information he has seen from the Navy doesn't suggest the alternate landing field is necessary yet. 

"Now, the military, the Department of the Navy which has actually been handling the environmental side, has said they don't have any justification at this point, because the noise levels at this atmosphere remain unknown," Keyserling says. "I believe they should be a little more forthcoming about that, and that we should begin to develop that data."

Pollard just hopes northern Beaufort County doesn't suffer from the racket. "But again, I don't think this part of Beaufort County will grow from the noise," he says. 

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The sound of freedom in the air could get noisy. Now, some Beaufort County neighbors are bracing themselves for changes across the skies. The Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) is set to begin training pilots to fly the F-35B in the fall, but not all are happy and instead worry the noise of the aircraft will be unbearable. 

The F-35B is the supersonic Joint Strike Fighter with a short take-off and vertical landing ability (STOVL). However, with the marvel in aircraft innovation, comes a reputation of intolerable noise. That reputation has trailed the plane from California to Florida, and now Beaufort residents are speaking out. 

Robert Pollard says he hears the sound of freedom from his backyard, across his dock. "You can see it's right across the waterway. The land you see on the other side of the water is air station property."

Pollard says the sounds of the F-18 flying through the area, looping around his Lady's Island neighborhood is enough to handle without the future addition of the F-35B. 


"One of the concerns is, they are going to be essentially about five times more operations," Pollard says. He worries the increased flights from the heavier aircraft will mean elevated decibel levels. 


His property lies within prime retirement community along the water, but he feels the property value will plummet from the noise. "I don't think this part of the county will grow because of the noise," he says.


Marine Corps officials say they will be good stewards, conducting no low altitude training at first. County council prepares to take noise complaints, because of an added economic boost they predict for the area. 


"We've always dealt with it, as a county and as a family. Whatever the reality is, we'll deal with it," Chairman Paul Sommerville says. 


Still, Pollard is hoping for complaints not only to be heard, but for an alternate landing field to be installed. "That would remove a lot of the flight operations, with some of the noisy planes somewhere else."


The group Pollard belongs to called B4B, Best 4 Beaufort, has made a website www.best4beaufort.com with details on the protest to the F-35B. 


The Commanding Officer over VMFAT-501 hopes to begin training the first class of pilots on the F-35B in October. 

 

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