Air Force F-35 meeting has Tucsonans concerned about noise

Air Force F-35 meeting has Tucsonans concerned about noise
(Source: Tucson News Now)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - It's the noise that John Holden constantly hears over his home.

"We're exposed to a lot of aircraft flying over," he said.

He lives under the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base flight path, in the Flowing Wells area of Tucson, where F-35 fighter jets have come roaring through on flights into the base.

"You can hear the sound. It's like, you know, whether you have a soprano or a bass singing. There's a difference there, but it wasn't obnoxious at all," he said.

He stopped in to the Tucson Convention Center on Tuesday, April 24, to sound off about the sound of the potentially new aircraft.

The Air Force Reserve Command held a scoping meeting to answer questions from those who attended.

"Scoping meetings are hosted to inform the public about the proposed action and alternatives under consideration, and to 'scope' important issues to evaluate in the Environmental Impact Statement," the program's website explained.

The U.S. Air Force is planning to base the F-35A aircraft at an already established military site.

According to Lt. Col. Bill Shea, the Combat Air Force Program Manager, they looked at over 200 bases in the continental United States and it came down to four finalists: Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Homestead Air Reserve Base in Florida, Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth, Texas, and Whiteman AFB in Missouri.

"It puts D-M on the map," Shea said.

"It's the latest and greatest technology which gives the U.S. Air Force an added capability against all of our threats around the world. So I think that's a huge compliment to the city of Tucson of why we should base this airplane here," said pilot Robert Tofil, the Vice Wing Commander 944th Fighter Wing at Luke AFB in Arizona.

The Secretary of the Air Force announced on January 12, 2017, that the Fort Worth, Texas, site had been identified as the preferred option, although they are exploring all sites.

"This base will be the first AFRC led F-35A base in the continental United States. A single squadron of 24 Primary Aerospace Vehicles Authorized (PAA) F-35A aircraft with 2 Backup Aircraft Inventory (BAI) will be based at the installation," according to the plan listed.

"A lot of the questions revolve around why this base versus another base? The fact is all four bases are very suitable for 24 fighters to be stationed at," Shea said, explaining that there are good resources for airspace and good locations for recruiting to these reserve bases.

But there were plenty of concerns raised at the information session, being blasted with loud objection.

Dale Pugh and Jean-Paul Bierny of Tucson cannot stand the idea of the F-35 coming to Tucson. They were among others wearing their "No F-35" pins on their shirts at the meeting, calling the fighter jets "extremely noisy."

An Environmental Impact Statement has not yet been drafted, though that's expected to be presented in the Summer of 2018. Among other items, it will look at the noise effect.

Some people, like Bierny, argue it's noticeably louder. Helen Bayly lives near the base and went around during the meeting handing out flyers stating that the comparison to the F-16 jets, which already reside and fly in Tucson, showed the F-35 had a 7 decibel to 24 decibel louder difference.

But military reports and fact sheets published by the F-35's designers showed that the F-35 engine noise is "comparable to most previously fielded fighter aircraft."

The reports even go so far as to show that in some low altitude flight conditions, the F-35 was "measured at least 10 dB lower" and that the F-35 noise comparison is equal to the F-16 with the latest generation engines.

"Relatively the same size, relatively the same shape, single engine, relatively the same speeds and same maneuverability. It's very close to the F-16," Tofil said. "So an average person looking up at the sky is going to see a fighter-type of airplane. It's going to look and sound about the same as each other."

It's a little too close to the F-16 for Pugh, who appears to have already had enough of the noise.

"There are a lot of people opposed to this. Or at least, they're concerned about it. A lot of neighborhood associations that are concerned about it," Pugh told Tucson News Now. "Already our community is being impacted by the noise. It's hard to take a hike, a walk, enjoy your patio without hearing an Air Force jet flying overhead."

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