F-35 impromptu visit coincides with new sound maps

Published: May. 29, 2019 at 4:59 PM EDT
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Vermonters will get their first chance to see and hear the sound of an F-35 take-off in the next day or so. It comes after four of the fighter jets made an unplanned trip to Burlington Wednesday.

The noise from the planes has fueled opposition to their basing here in September, and a new report indicates thousands more people living near the airport will be impacted by the noise.

"We are partnering with federal dollars to see how we can help surrounding communities," said Burlington Airport Director Gene Richards, at a press conference Wednesday announcing the release of the new sound maps.

After years of work to mitigate the current noise, including tearing down dozens of homes, airport officials say that only a few hundred people currently live in an area where the noise is considered unsuitable for living. But the new map shows over 6,000 people will be in that unsuitable zone in 2023, indicated by a red line on the map.

"What we are here today to do is to advocate on behalf of the people in the community and solicit funds for noise mitigation," Richards said.

Airport officials say the map quantifies the noise around the airport, calling this "phase one" in the process of helping those affected.

The second part will be the noise compatibility program and will involve the airport going after federal dollars to help with sound mitigation. The airport will pay for installing sound insulation or help with those who want to sell their homes, but they say there are no plans for any more demolitions.

"Typically, it's like a bullseye. Whoever is closest to the airport would qualify first, and work its way out," Richards said.

"Even if you do sound insulation, it's only good to a certain level," said Rosanne Greco, a retired Air Force colonel and long-time opponent of the F-35 basing in Burlington. She says it's unclear how much federal money will be available to help and how long it will last. And with the bigger map, she says it means more people will need help .

"This is going to produce a lot of noise people can't escape from," Greco said. "That will come to light as soon as they arrive."

In the neighborhoods that fall within the new red lines of the sound map, several residents said they are upset about the noise the jets will bring, but others say they are used to the current noise and expect they will adjust.

"After awhile you don't even notice them," said Ruth Nolan of Winooski.

"I'm pretty used to it. The airport is right there, so I am used to the regular airplanes as well," said Abby Shaw of Winooski.

There are many ways the maps measure the sound. For example, late night and early operations were weighted more when they created the maps.