Editor’s note: This commentary is by Rosanne Greco, a retired USAF colonel who served on active duty for 30 years. She is a former chair of the South Burlington City Council.
[T]here is a solution to the airport noise problems in which all of the entities involved — the Vermont Air National Guard, the airport, South Burlington, Burlington and the surrounding communities — will survive and thrive. It’s simple, aligns totally with Vermont values, won’t cost a dime, may result in more jobs coming to the Air Guard, and everyone wins.
Most folks would agree that airport noise is causing significant problems in our area. But to make sure we are all on the same page, I’m providing the information upon which this solution is based. All of the facts I cite are taken from official government documents and can be verified.
Facts related to the impact of the problem: The primary source of the unlivable airport noise come from military jets — not commercial airliners; because of this noise, Burlington is using FAA money to purchase and then demolish homes in South Burlington; home demolition reduces South Burlington property taxes, which then results in tax increases for the rest of the city’s homeowners. In fact, South Burlington taxpayers pay three times for the home demolitions — in their federal taxes which the FAA uses to buy the houses, in their state taxes to match federal money, and in their increased city taxes to make up the property taxes not being collected on demolished homes.
Facts related to the F-16 and F-35: The prime source of the noise and the resulting problems are caused by the F-16; the F-35 is scheduled to arrive at VTANG in 2019; federal reports state the F-35 is four times louder than the F-16; it is logical to conclude that noise problems will continue with a military jet which is four times louder.
Facts related to the F-35 basing decision: The basing of the F-35 was primarily a political decision. Court documents show that Sen. Patrick Leahy phoned the Air Force chief of staff and told him to base the F-35 in Vermont. Sen. Leahy and Sen. Bernie Sanders both stated they supported the F-35 basing because the F-35 was essential for VTANG’s future. Court documents show this reason was incorrect. The senators, along with many other Vermonters, were misled to believe that VTANG needed the F-35 to continue to have a mission. Federal and legal documents, as well as sworn testimony from the U.S. Air Force, show unequivocally that VTANG will continue to have a flying mission whether or not the F-35 is based here.
Consequently, there is a simple solution: Sens. Leahy and/or Sanders directs the U.S. Air Force to replace the F-35 with an aircraft that is compatible with residential areas, for example, a transport/cargo aircraft.
There are at least 10 advantages to this solution:
• Transport aircraft produce much less noise, and not the high-pitched noise of fighter aircraft. Transport aircraft produce noise similar to commercial aircraft noise.
• Transport aircraft are more compatible with neighborhoods than fighter aircraft.
The senators, along with many other Vermonters, were misled to believe that VTANG needed the F-35 to continue to have a mission.
• Transport aircraft will bring more aircraft-related jobs to VTANG (co-pilots, loadmasters, etc.).
• The mission of transport aircraft align better with Vermont values. Fighter aircraft are attack weapons whose mission is to kill and destroy; while transport aircraft’s mission is to save lives by providing supplies and equipment to forces and civilian populations. Transport aircraft are often used on humanitarian missions delivering food, clothing, bedding, medical supplies, etc.
• VTANG would retain a flying mission and gain jobs.
• The Burlington Airport would continue its relationship with VTANG.
• Burlington would continue to benefit from VTANG fire and runway services.
• South Burlington would retain its neighborhoods and affordable housing.
• South Burlington residents would be spared tax increases from the loss of housing.
• Thousands of people in surrounding communities would not be subject to unlivable noise.
There is the only disadvantage. The VTANG fighter pilots would need to be retrained to fly transport aircraft.
All we need is for one of our senators to make a phone call. A phone call got us the F-35. A phone call can get us an aircraft that is compatible with residential neighborhoods.
I originally titled this solution “Five-way-win.” But a more appropriate title might be “Our senators can save us.” The only question is will they?