By: Joel Banner Baird for the Burlington Free Press, Oct. 27, 2019
SOUTH BURLINGTON – Ear-plugs? Heavier curtains in the living room? How about a moving van?
No easy fix for noise accompanied the arrival last month of Vermont Air National Guard’s first two F-35 fighter jets. Nor did a consensus over the planes’ roar.
Still, efforts are underway to soften the impact of F-35s on communities around Burlington International Airport — even as scientists struggle to understand the passage of sound waves from engine to ear drum.
How loud is too loud? Reams of data (and the absence of data) have shaped two major payloads of opinion:
- Critics of the plane, including the group Save Our Skies VT, have argued for at least six years that for health and safety reasons, F-35s should be stationed further from densely settled communities.
- Fans of the F-35 tout the fighter’s roar as a patriotic “sound of freedom” — a sound, in other words, worth putting up with. The financial benefits of hosting a fighter squadron in Vermont are also cited by this faction.
But is the F-35 really louder?
The Pentagon thinks so.
F-35s are substantially louder than VTANG’s previous fighter, the F-16, according to the Air Force’s 2013 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for basing the new fighter.
Later that year, when VTANG was selected as the first Guard unit to host the F-35, the Air Force acknowledged that the environmental impact (including noise) here would be worse than that at a competing base in South Carolina.