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Fighter Jet's Noise Worries Some Potential Neighbors

The Air Force says that within a few weeks it will release a list of preferred bases for the next generation fighter aircraft, which is now being flight-tested. As many as 200 bases around the country are candidates for the F-35, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter.

But while many of the communities near those bases would welcome the economic benefits of the new mission, they would not be as welcoming to the noise the aircraft bring.

Air Force data suggest that, depending on altitude, the F-35 is three to 12 times louder than the A-10 attack aircraft. For some, it's the sound of freedom.


"This is our nation's defense," says Bruce Dusenberry, a member of the DM-50, a civic group that promotes the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Ariz. "This is the security of our freedoms. So that's equally important that we support our military for those reasons."

The group says it supports any new mission the Air Force plans in Tucson because of the importance to the local economy.

But some residents hear a different tune.

"If they love the sound of freedom so much, I'll be happy to sell them my house," says Gail Cordy, who sits on a community relations committee set up to work with the military over noise issues.

Each day, dozens of A-10's fly over Cordy's home in midtown. She figures that about half her neighbors oppose louder flights, but are afraid to speak out.


"They don't want to be seen as unpatriotic," she says. "And that label has been leveled at us more than once."

It's a sticky issue for any community leader.

"We'd be proud to be known as Fighter Town USA," says John Arnold, mayor of Valparaiso, Fla. The city is next to Eglin Air Force Base, another candidate for the F-35s.

Yet, Valparaiso is suing the Air Force over noise from the aircraft. The lawsuit claims the Air Force didn't adequately disclose its noise measurements in its environmental impact statement.

"We just take exception to the final [environmental impact statement], which put lots of noise over the city of Valparaiso," he says. According to Air Force data, he continues, the noise would make the city almost uninhabitable.

One part of the lawsuit was settled. Valparaiso is still asking for a more thorough environmental impact statement, which Kathleen Ferguson, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force, says it will get.

The decision on where to base the F-35 includes a lot of factors, she says, and noise is just one of them. It won't be the deciding factor, she warns.

"There is not a specific point in time where we eliminate a base from contention because of noise," Ferguson says.

Proximity to training areas will probably weigh more heavily — several bases in Arizona, for instance, are near the Barry Goldwater Air Force bombing range. And to some extent, she says, jet noise can be mitigated based on how and when the pilots fly.

The military could also soundproof homes under flight paths. But that won't help if you're in your backyard having a barbecue — which people in Arizona and Florida do a lot.

So community leaders in both places suggest they'd welcome a different mission for their hometown bases — like, perhaps, a smaller, quieter Predator drone.

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