Legislators step in on military aircraft noise

As the Marine Corps proposes to expand in Hawaiʻi, the Honolulu Star Advertiser reports that even the military communities in Kailua and Kāneʻohe are already complaining about aircraft noise and safety.  William Cole writes “Legislators step in on military noise” (August 12, 2012):

Resident complaints about noise from close-flying military planes and helicopters using the Kaneohe Marine base are being raised with federal lawmakers at a time when 53,000 flight operations annually are expected to soar to nearly 79,000 in coming years.

Four state legislators — Rep. Pono Chong, Rep. Cynthia Thielen, Rep. Ken Ito and Sen. Jill Tokuda — sent a letter last week to Hawaii’s congressional delegation asking that they conduct a public meeting over the aircraft noise.

“Our constituents have expressed concerns about noise from military aircraft flights, particularly noise that can be heard from schools, businesses and private residences,” the letter says. “Such noise is not solely caused by operations at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii-Kaneohe Bay. Aircraft from other branches of the military also use (the base).”

Ever since the Navy acquired 464 acres on Mokapu Peninsula in 1939 for a PBY Catalina seaplane base, aircraft have been flying overhead.

In the ongoing evolution of the air station, the latest concerns are over Marine Corps, Army and perhaps Navy helicopters overflying Aikahi Park houses — rattling jalousie windows as they go — before landing near the base’s helicopter hangars.

Another sore spot: Air Force C-17 Globemaster cargo carriers practice touch-and-go landings, with flight routes taking the big jets near the Kaneohe Bay shoreline and, some residents say, over land and homes, drowning out televisions.

P-3 Orion propeller planes also stray too far and too low over Kaneohe Bay and Enchanted Lake neighborhoods, some say.

And that’s before 18 P-8A Poseidon jets, up to 24 MV-22 tilt-rotor Ospreys and the majority of 27 AH-1 Cobra and UH-1 Huey helicopters arrive, along with 900 aviation personnel associated with the Ospreys and choppers.

The Marines say that they cannot move the flight path of helicopters over the sea because of the live fire training area at Ulupau crater.

In a July 24 letter to Thielen, Marine Corps Base Hawaii commander Col. Brian Annichiarico said the helicopter flight path was modified so aircraft use the path suggested by Vericker.

Vericker said he’s seen inconsistent Marine Corps efforts made in reducing the aircraft noise, and while Annichiarico, who took command in November, has been successful in reducing some of the racket, it’s “the loudest it’s been in the last couple of years in the 30 years that we’ve lived here.”

Thielen also noted Annichiarico’s involvement, saying he is making “every effort” to keep aircraft away from residential areas.

Marine Corps Base Hawaii said in an email that the departure route takes rotary wing aircraft on the base side of the center line of Nuu­pia Ponds at altitudes of 600 to 800 feet above the ground.

Officials said helicopters heading east from the base are unable to go around the peninsula, around Ulu­pau Crater and out to sea, due to the location of the live-fire range at Ulu­pau. A departure around the peninsula also would increase flight time to training areas and waste fuel, the Marines said.

Asked about P-3 Orions and C-17 cargo jets flying low over homes, the base said all aircraft fly in accordance with Federal Aviation Administration rules. For congested areas, the FAA says fixed-wing aircraft must be at least 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a 2,000-foot horizontal radius.

“In addition to the FAA rules, (the base) has developed more restrictive course rules that keep the flight path of fixed-wing aviation over water as they approach the runway,” the Corps said in the statement. “Occasionally the aircraft may not be able to maintain their course over water and overfly land but do so in accordance with FAA regulations and safety of flight.”

Ulupau is also a bird sanctuary:

Could some aircraft may be reassigned to Washington State?

The Marine Corps air station was selected by the Navy for 18 P-8A Poseidon sub-hunting aircraft as a replacement for the aging P-3 Orion propellor aircraft, but the Navy reportedly is trying to shift the Hawaii jets to Whidbey Island in Washington state in a cost-saving move.

We shall see. . .

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