Thursday, August 27, 2009

In the News

It's kind of funny when the aircraft you work - or may wind up working in the future - appear as front page news in the local paper.

The articles below relate to Choctaw Field and Whiting NAS. Here's where these fall within our radar map:

From the Northwest Florida Daily News:

Navarre Potential Destination for F-35

NAVARRE — Eglin Air Force Base officials hosted a meeting Tuesday to discuss an alternative that would use Choctaw Field in South Santa Rosa County for the Joint Strike Fighter training mission.

The meeting introduced three alternatives that are being considered in the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the bed-down of the F-35 jets.

Of the three alternatives introduced, Choctaw Field (also known as Alternative 3) would have the greatest impact on the Holley-Navarre area.

The alternative would add a runway to Choctaw’s main airfield for the F-35 or use the current runway and add a landing, helicopter and assault area on the east side of the existing airfield. Either option would conflict with the existing Navy training at the airfield.

Two residents spoke at the meeting. Both favored using Choctaw Field, calling the potential noise “the sound of freedom.”

David Del Castillo lives 13 to 15 miles from Choctaw Field and saw several advantages.

“I believe that placing military aircraft at Choctaw Field, or anywhere in this area, is very good for the community. It’s also good for the Air Force,” he said. “I believe that Highway 87 directly connecting to Choctaw Field offers a lot of advantages. Heavy cargo could be brought in by trucks, never having to impact communities in Navarre. It could potentially provide employment to the community.”

Choctaw Field is located on the far west corner of Eglin Air Force Base’s range between East Bay and State Road 87 south of Interstate 10.

The airfield would be an hour commute for Joint Striker Fighter students who will attend classes in the training school under construction at Eglin.

Increased activity at Choctaw Field also could interfere with Bob Sikes Airport, Whiting Field and Pensacola Gulf Coast Regional Airport, according to a brochure available at the meeting.

Another alternative suggests Choctaw and Duke Field share the mission with Eglin’s runways. Two parallel runways would be built at Eglin and Choctaw would be used as one of two outlying fields.

An additional alternative would move the Joint Strike Fighter training to Duke Field. That option calls for building a landing, helicopter and assault area, and use either the existing runway or add a parallel runway east of the existing one.

“We support whatever the military needs to do,” said Sherry Del Castillo after the meeting.

However she did express one disappointment.

“I’m disappointed Santa Rosa County officials weren’t here to speak on our behalf,” she said.

The meeting was the first time Navarre has been included as a possible destination for the F-35.

Choctaw Field was excluded as an option previously because its runways could not support the mission and were already used by the Navy, base officials said in an interview in March.

Most of the F-35 discussion has centered on Valparaiso, where city officials are extremely worried about the jets’ noise.

Many of the alternatives presented involve building additional runways at a cost that was not included in the original BRAC funding. Estimated costs of the alternatives were not available but would be included in the final draft of the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.

I'm morbidly curious as to how a unit of nearly fifty supercruising F-35 fighters based ten miles from our two busiest facilities will affect our already completely whacked unique operation.

New T-6B Texans Arrive at Whiting NAS

From the Pensacola News Journal:

A pair of T-6B Texan II aircraft taxi down the runway at Whiting Field Naval Air Station Thursday morning Aug. 27, 2009. T-6B Texans are among the first of new training aircraft to be delivered to NAS Whiting Field. The Texans scheduled to replace the current T-34 trainer as Navy's primary flight trainer.

Louis Cooper - August 27, 2009: Threatening skies did not keep the next generation of training air craft from arriving at Whiting Field Naval Air Station this morning.

Whiting's Training Air Wing 5 took delivery of its first two T-6B Texan II training aircraft, which will replace the T-34 Turbo Mentor. The older craft have been in use by the Navy since 1978.

"It's pretty exciting to be bringing in a new training system that is going to train these airborne warriors for the next couple of decades," said Marine Col. John Walsh, commodore of Training Air Wing 5.

He pointed out that the T-34 he trained in at Whiting in 1987 is still in use today.

"You can see around here we're not big fans of the cash for clunkers program," Walsh said, with laughter from the crowd assembled in a hangar.

"We like to keep things flying around here. The taxpayers buy things for us, we take good care of it and we put it to good use."

The new plane will fly a maximum of 316 knots, where as the old one topped out at 280 knots. Whiting will receive periodic shipments of the new plane until it reaches a total of 156 on 2015. Student pilots will begin using the new planes in April.
These two were doing laps around North Whiting this morning. Fast airplanes. I'm wondering how well they're going to mesh in the pattern with the South Whiting helicopters.

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