An independent government watchdog group in Washington D.C. has asked the Air Force to put off a decision to base a squadron of F-35s in Vermont because of ongoing safety concerns regard about the fledgling fighter jet.
“It is irresponsible for you to rush to beddown this immature aircraft in a residential zone,” Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, wrote in a Nov. 6 letter to the acting Air Force secretary and chief of staff. “If you believe there is indeed some urgency, then you should not endanger the local population and should follow past precedent and place the F-35A in a less dangerous location,” Brian said in the letter. One of the group’s founding advisers is Pierre Sprey, a former designer of military aircraft who has made two appearances in Burlington on behalf of foes of the F-35. The Air Force has designated the Vermont Air National Guard facility at Burlington International Airport in South Burlington as the preferred Air Guard site over Guard bases in South Carolina and Florida. A final basing decision by the Air Force is expected shortly.
Brian’s letter said her organization obtained information from an Air Force official indicating the F-35 will have logged only 300,000 hours of training and operational flight time by 2020, when the basing in Vermont would begin. Vermont Air National Guard officials have said they believe the plane will have flown 750,000 hours by 2020. “We strongly urge you to delay selecting a location for the F-35A’s operational beddown until the aircraft has logged a significant number of flying hours and until its safety record has been demonstrated,” Brian wrote.