F-35s take off from Burlington

Published: May. 30, 2019 at 5:22 PM EDT
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Four F-35 fighter jets that made an unexpected pitstop in Vermont departed Friday morning, and that departure was more noteworthy than the visit. People got their first listen at the sound the planes make on takeoff, a key concern for many that live and work near the airport.

"Once we responded and parked the airplanes, there was a lot of excitement on the base. Our airmen were interested in it, the community was interested in it," said Vermont Air National Guard Col. David Smith

Excitement, and some initial confusion. But Smith says the Guard was full of pride once four F-35 fighter jets landed on Wednesday. He says the takeoff and flight path Friday will be similar to when the F35s land in Vermont this September. "What I saw is really reflective of the F-35, how we'll be flying it," he said.

Which may not be the best news for some residents who live in parts of Chittenden County projected to have high noise levels.

"I am in a state of shock," said Josee Compton, who moved to Winooski six months ago. "The F-16s were not great, we didn't know about them, but the F-35 is an entirely different beast."

Compton says Winooski was starting to have a new vibe, but says she's not sure she can stand to hear the jets four times a week. "We were planning to buy here, and we're going to move out," she said.

"To me, when you hear a military jet taking off it's the sound of freedom," said Roderick Williams, who lives on Maryland Street in South Burlington, just steps away from the Burlington International Airport. He says he knew about the sound from the airplanes and fighter jets when buying his home. "It's no different buying a house next to a pig farm and complaining about the smell."

Williams lives in a part of the city that has been projected to have high noise levels in a computer generated sound map released by the airport this week. He says the sound doesn't bother him and he's eager for the arrival of the F-35. "I can't understand why anybody would complain about anything that supports the security of our country," he said.

"They weren't that loud," said Michael Wright, who also lives in Winooski. He believes the jets are a little louder than the F-16s but says he has no problem with the F-35s and strongly supports the Air Guard's mission. "It doesn't worry me at all," he said.

Col. Smith hopes the preview of the F-35 will clear up any confusion on how much louder takeoffs actually are. He says the Guard continues to look at minimizing the sound impact, but says the F-35s placement here is vital for the state. "The F-35 mission is our mission. It's critically important, it really secures the future of this wing and the Vermont Air National Guard.