Gov. Peter Shumlin is on his way to Florida for a firsthand look at the F-35s. The governor and the mayors of Burlington and Winooski took off around 10 a.m. Wednesday for a daylong trip to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida's panhandle. The goal of the trip is for the trio to get a chance to see and hear the jets in action.
The U.S. Air Force is eyeing Burlington as a leading option for basing the military's newest fighter planes.
Shumlin says the trip will allow him to focus on the facts.
"I really want to be able to look Vermonters in the eye and say, listen, I'm not basing my information on noise about what I've been told, I'm basing it on what I've heard," said Shumlin, D-Vermont.
"This is a good opportunity to experience firsthand what these jets sound like. Obviously there is a good deal of conflicting information out there about what the impacts might be," said Mayor Miro Weinberger, D-Burlington.
The trip is being paid for by the Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation. The group has been a longtime supporter of bringing the F-35s to Vermont.
WCAX News sent a crew to Florida to cover this fact-finding trip. Kyle Midura is at Eglin Air Force Base with more on what the Vermont delegation will see and hear on this trip.
Reporter Kyle Midura: It's not exactly a beach day here in typically sunny Florida. A light rain has been coming down since yesterday and it almost canceled today's demonstration. But officials received the green light this morning and are due-in about an hour from now. Once here, they'll meet with Army officials and are scheduled for a 12:30 p.m. lunch.
Beyond that, much of today's schedule is up in the air, as flight staff members keep a close eye on the weather. Spokespeople did tell me that they doubt the demonstration will occur before 1:30 p.m. here-- 2:30 p.m. EST.
At this point, it's unclear if Vermont's leaders will be taking in those takeoffs from multiple locations.
Opponents have insisted on the necessity of doing so. That's because the new Joint Strike Fighter plane may actually be quieter than the current batch of F-16s at initial takeoff, but concerned residents worry it will be louder than the old planes once it's more than 300 feet above the ground.
None of those on today's trip are outspoken opponents of the plane. The pro-plane Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation, which arranged and paid for this trip, said they didn't invite opponents because they had already made up their minds.
It remains to be seen if today's exhibition will alter or reinforce the opinions of those expected to arrive in less than an hour.
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