Unlike some of my colleagues in this space, I’m not particularly exercised about the F-35 issue. I just don’t think it’s going to make that much difference, and there are far bigger items on the political agenda.

That said, my goodness, Governor Shumlin’s little Florida junket was a complete waste of time and the GBIC’s money, wasn’t it? The best he can hope for is that this event will be quickly forgotten. It certainly won’t change anyone’s mind, and it displayed one of Shummy’s less endearing political quirks — his inability to appear plausibly concerned with the opinions of people who disagree with him.

So he goes down to Florida with a bunch of F-35 supporters and two journalists — Terri Hallenbeck of the Freeploid and Kirk Carapezza of VPR. And how do these reporters show their appreciation? They take pictures of him palling around with junket bankroller Ernie Pomerleau, and wearing big ugly headphones whenever he’s anywhere near those Air Force whisperjets.  

And what’s worse, they report some of the stupid stuff the junketeers had to say.  

Shumlin said when he first saw the plane, “Wow.”

“I’m shocked at how quiet the F-35 is,” Shumlin said afterward.

Shumlin tells Pomerleau there’s only one thing that could convince him that the noise between the two jets is appreciably different: “If I can’t hear you on the flight home!”

Ba ha ha, he used the same joke on Paul Heintz last week.

“Volume – seems to me – is about the same. But don’t forget the F-16 is not using the afterburner. You crank that afterburner and I bet you that the F-16 is louder,” Shumlin says, standing on the tarmac.

So the F-35 might be louder, except when the F-16 is. Brilliant.  

And finally, best of all:

“The noise issue should not hold us back from embracing the F-35,” Shumlin says.

(Quotes #1 and 2 from the Freeploid; others from VPR.) Summing it up, then: the Governor came down with “open ears” but wouldn’t change his mind unless he was deafened by the F35, his evaluation of the noise was laughably transparent, and finally, he says the noise doesn’t matter.

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger joined Shumlin in elevating his own foot and inserting it between his lips. Freeploid:

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, who came as a supporter of the jets, went away unchanged. “It’s a different sound,” he said. “There was not a dramatic difference.”

Winooski Mayor and amateur audiologist Mike O’Brien, the only F-35 agnostic on the trip, performed a scienterrific evaluation of the noise with his iPad. Which unfortunately showed the F-35 blasting 114 decibels to the F-16’s 101. (Decibels are logarithmic units, so a difference of 13 dB is quite substantial.) And then he proceeded to make excuses: the F-35 may have seemed louder because it flew closer to him.  And,

“They’re both loud,” O’Brien said afterward.

Of the F-35’s sound, he said, “It didn’t blow my socks off. It’s a deeper sound. It’s really hard to compare the whole thing this quickly.”

In other words, the whole thing was pointless.

Our thanks to Mayors Weinberger and O’Brien for their invaluable public service, and our best wishes to the Governor on his Italian vacation.


11 thoughts on “Planespotting

  1. I know science- and evidence-based decision making is not popular, but here’s a bit of perspective from the CDC. Here are their “Recommended Permissible Exposure Time” for various decibel levels (with dBA levels above 106 extrapolated):

    100 dBA: 15 minute exposure limit

    103 dBA: 7.5 minutes

    106 dBA: 3.75 minutes

    109 dBA: ~2 minutes

    112 dBA: ~55 seconds

    115 dBA: ~30 seconds

    118 dBA: ~14 seconds

    And yes, I recognize that iPads are not carefully calibrated for this sort of application, and the distance may have been different.

  2. These guys aren’t in the tank, are they?

    Maybe the good folks of South Burlington and Winooski can all be issued complimentary ear protectors, and a take-off and landing schedule for good measure.

  3. it certainly may have stupid, but the Gov. and the Mayors sent a solid signal.They all will go out of their way and indeed look foolish to weigh in with the GBIC.

    And a free private flight to Florida for press too.How’s that stack up to a deer hunting trip?

  4. Did the WGOP people fly down themselves with their equipment??  I THINK I heard them say that they had a camera and reporter on site.

    The distance thing is potentially significant due to the  Doppler effect, potentially being the noteworthy word.

    I have to overall agree with JV….  much ado about something that is close tothe same.  I think the 16 is loud,  I thought the 4 was loud,  I am sure the 35 will be loud.

    There is a lot of stuff at the airport that is paid for by having those folks out there on the other side of the runway.   Having the latest and greatest running down the strip sorta helps to maintain the payroll and the firetrucks and a lot of other stuff the F35 crew would continue to bring.  

    Wonder if skip has the contract to provide the fuel??   Might as well tie a few threads together……..

  5. Michael Colby know about this?  I wish he’d weigh in.  He could well precipitate the end of the defense department just as he ended the Iraq War.

  6. I had two thoughts watching the story on WCAX.

    1. Is it really true that the noise from the F-35’s is only going to be six minutes a day? That doesn’t seem like a lot.

    2. There’s a db meter app for an iPad? Way cool.

  7. and that concerns about those possible impacts are not finding ANY sympathy from the people in power, who admit that they really can’t provide much reassurance, and seem to be totally in the tank for project promoters.  That is extremely frustrating for the local community; and I think very unwise.

    The findings of the “environmental study” seem so unlikely that it is quite legitimate for folks to be skeptical that the community’s best interests are being protected.  

    This is a population that does not have the resources of wealthier communities, and such populations are frequently under protected by officials more concerned with “growth” opportunities.

  8. at Stowe, Woodstock, Shelburne, Charlotte, or was relocated to Putney, you could be damned sure there would be a different song being sung…

    Can you hear me now?

    What about now?

    Oh wait, no wonder they are so quiet! I have these ear muffs on!

    Wait, test is over. Hmm.

    I’ll just imagine how loud they were…

  9. It’s most likely going to be “six minutes a day” per plane. And unlikely to actually be limited to that. Maybe it’s six minutes per take-off per plane, landings and touch-and-goes and other maneuvers notwithstanding.

    It’s in the bag, clearly, ever since the Air Force refused to consider or answer Roseanne Greco’s concerns about the siting process. For Leahy it’s a feather in his cap. For Bernie, too, now that he’s all over Veteran’s Affairs.


    Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. ~ Winston Churchill

  10. I mentioned distance in a previous comment.  I have SPL apps and they are actually pretty good, so it’s up the the controls to validate an experiment.

    I mentioned placing an SPL meter at a set and exact distance from the planes taking off.  Without controlling the distance the results are meaningless.

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