BURLINGTON — The first two F-35s that will be based in Burlington will arrive Thursday, the Vermont Air National Guard announced.
Vermont Air National Guard pilots will be flying the jets to Burlington from Fort Worth, Texas, and are set to arrive Thursday, but the Guard said the exact time of their arrival was still to be determined. The Guard said the arrival could be delayed until Friday but they were aiming for a Thursday landing.
The F-35s will replace the F-16 fighter jets the Guard had flown previously.
The arrival of the jets has been controversial with significant opposition from locals concerned about the noise of the jets and other issues.
Many more households, primarily in Williston and Winooski, will have average noise levels higher than 65 decibels, according to a noise map released by the airport in May. The total number of people and households with noise levels “unsuitable for residential use” will triple, according to the noise map.
Anti-basing activists have mobilized with increased intensity in recent weeks. Over 100 people protested the basing in Burlington earlier this month, and six people were arrested last week during protests at the Burlington office of U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, who used his influence to pressure the Air Force to base the fighter jets at the Burlington airport. Two protesters, both retired Air Force officers, will be arraigned in court Thursday morning on trespassing charges.
The Vermont Air National Guard will be the first Guard unit in the country to house F-35s, which have over 205,000 flight hours. There have been more than 420 aircraft delivered to 12 different countries at 19 different bases worldwide.
Col. David Smith, the commander of the 158th Fighter Wing, said in the press release that the pilots were looking forward to flying the jets to Burlington.
“This is such an exciting time for the 158th Fighter Wing, and we are looking forward to sharing it with the community,” Smith said. “We have all worked very hard to prepare for this moment, and I assure you our airmen are ready.”
Brig. Gen. Greg Knight, the adjutant general of the Vermont National Guard, said the arrival of the jets was “a long time coming.”
Kinght added: “The outstanding legacy of the Vermont Air National Guard is on full display, and we couldn’t be prouder of our Airmen.”
Related: On this week’s Deeper Dig podcast, reporter Jasper Craven discusses why last year’s local resolutions opposing the F-35 haven’t led the military to change course.
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