For Immediate Release
For further information contact:
Rosanne Greco 497-0711(o) 301 919-9313(c)
James Marc Leas 802 864-1575
Jim Dumont 802 453-7011(o) 802 349-7342(c)
Air Force “Mitigation and Management Plan” NOT
“Mitigation” plan includes no additional action regarding noise
“Mitigation” plan is a giant backward step regarding crash
In its just released “Mitigation and Management Plan” for Burlington and in its Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) the Air Force admits major additional environmental and health effects of basing and operating F-35 warplanes in Burlington compared to the current F-16 basing.
In the EIS The Air Force admits that thousands more families living in communities near the airport will be in high noise and crash zones and at higher risk of serious harm with F-35 jets as compared with the current F-16 jets.
In the EIS and in the “mitigation” plan the Air Force admits that these risks are so serious that additional mitigation is necessary.
But the Air Force “mitigation” plan fails to include any actual additional mitigation measures. In fact, a key mitigation measure that was adopted for the F-16 appears not to be taken for the F-35 with regard to crash risk.
Despite the Air Force admission that the F-35-A will be more than four times louder than the screechingly loud F-16 no reasonable additional mitigation measures are included in the “mitigation” plan.
“The plan is not a real mitigation plan. At best it is a plan to plan,” said James Marc Leas, an opponent of F-35 basing who lives in South Burlington. “It is a pretend plan.”
The plan calls for waiting until the F-35-A arrives before deciding on mitigation. Tempering any hope of effective mitigation, the plan expressly states that mitigation takes a back seat to flight ground and weapons safety (page 3). The plan includes no commitment for effective mitigation after the plane arrives.
According to the “mitigation” plan, the Air Force says it is already taking measures to mitigate F-16 noise and it will do the same for the F-35.
But a chart in the Air Force Final EIS (page BR4-23) states that the noise level of the F-35 is 115 dB compared to 94 dB for the F-16. The Final EIS (page C-2) also states that a 10 dB increase in sound level is perceived as a doubling of the sound’s loudness. Thus, the 21 dB higher sound level of the F-35 means the F-35 will be more than two doublings, or more than four times louder than the F-16. “If it was not a pretend plan, the mitigation plan would include actions to mitigate that much-higher noise level,” said Mr. Leas. “But it does not. Not a word.”
As written, the mitigation plan does not specify any measures beyond those already implemented for the F-16. It is all left to the future to figure out. “This is a serious flaw in view of the Air Force saying the F-35 is more than four times louder than the F-16 and the Air Force saying that thousands more families will be living in high noise zones that are harmful to human health,” said Mr. Leas.
Questions about noise
If, as the mitigation plan says, the Air Guard is doing all it can to mitigate F-16 noise–and the F-16 is still screechingly loud as jets take off over Winooski, Williston, Burlington and South Burlington–why does the supposed “mitigation plan” not list additional measures that will definitely be implemented to mitigate the F-35 noise? Why is it all left until after the F-35 warplanes arrive?
Will thousands of houses be sound insulated? Will air conditioning systems be installed so windows need not be opened in summer? No such mitigation for thousands of families is mentioned in the plan.
Will children and elderly be warned in advance of flights and told not to go outside during those times? Nothing in the plan.
Will potential buyers be notified that property in the high noise zones is considered by the US Government to be “unsuitable for residential use.” Not in the plan.
Will thousands of homes have to be purchased and more communities destroyed–like the part of South Burlington near the airport?
“The best way to mitigate crash risk is to do what was done with the F-16 before the F-16 was based in Burlington: accumulate a million fleet flight hours,” said Mr. Leas. “If safety were truly a priority–as it appears to have been for the F-16 basing–the time for basing in Burlington would not be set before one million fleet flight hours were accumulated.” The time for basing has been set at 2020.
Although plenty of F-16 jets have crashed over the years, one factor in the F-16 safety record here in Burlington is that enough fleet hours were flown and enough bugs were fixed that the crash rate was significantly lowered before the F-16 was allowed to be based in the middle of communities with thousands of families.
The supposed mitigation plan includes no mention of F-35-A fleet flight hours anticipated to be accumulated when F-35-A warplanes arrive in Burlington in 2020 compared to the number of F-16 fleet flight hours actually accumulated–over one million hours–when F-16 warplanes arrived here.
So far the Air Force says that all three models combined, F-35-A, F-35-B, and F-35-C, have only accumulated 15,000 flight hours, a tiny percentage of what is needed.
“Safety is denied if the number of F-35-A fleet flight hours anticipated to be accumulated when F-35-A warplanes arrives is significantly lower than one million hours,” said Mr. Leas. “Basing before then will be a giant step backward in safety mitigation compared to F-16 basing.”
“The ‘mitigation’ plan fails to mitigate the crash risk if it fails to include a provision that no F-35-A planes will be based in Burlington until the F-35-A fleet has accumulated a million flight hours, just like the F-16,” he said.
Question about crash
Will the Air Force and the National Guard still allow basing of the F-35-A in Burlington in 2020 if the F-35-A fleet has not flown a million hours, as the F-16 did worldwide before it was based in Burlington?