STAR-BULLETIN / 2007
Noise made by C-17 jets, like the one shown here near the Pacific Missile Range on Kauai, has a Kaneohe resident concerned.
Air Force jets operate within noise limits
Big four-engine military jets lumber above those of us who live on Kaneohe Bay in the Lilipuna Loop area, making horrendous noise. This has been going on for the past four or five months and is getting increasingly intolerable. The flights are usually between 6 and 8 p.m., occasionally earlier or later, and most heavy Monday to Thursday. They are rarer on Fridays and almost never on weekends. These jets are not to be confused with the Orion search planes, which are not nearly as noisy and which have been flying over Kaneohe Bay for years. The big jets are also not the same as the new jets that will be introduced over the next 10 years to replace the Orions. Is this level of noise pollution legal, whether any public hearing and approval process was done on their introduction, and what can be done to move the flights farther out to sea, away from our homes?
Answer: The short answers: Noise from the military aircraft are deemed within acceptable federal standards, and the flight times and routes will not be changing any time soon, according to Marine Corps Base Hawaii.
However, if requested funding becomes available to build a new airstrip in Kona, Air Force C-17 jets would do their training off the Big Island, thus alleviating your noise concerns. There is no timeline yet on when that might happen.
The Marine Corps airfield at Kaneohe Bay is used by all U.S. military forces and the Air National Guard.
Many different types of aircraft operate in and out of the Kaneohe Bay airfield, some more frequently than others, said Marine spokesman Lt. Binford Strickland: "They have all been subject to noise studies and operate within established guidelines."
The large, four-engine jets flying in and out of the Kaneohe base are, for the most part, the Air Force C-17s, he said.
Because the Air Force does not own runways on Oahu, it looks to other airfields for training. While it shares use of Honolulu Airport, the airfield there is not adequate for training air crews.
In 2005, the Air Force conducted an environmental assessment, looking at alternatives to the Marine base in Kaneohe Bay for a "short austere airfield" to accommodate aircraft training, said Philip Breeze, chief of public affairs, 15th Airlift Wing, at Hickam Air Force Base.
The conclusion was that an airfield could be built adjacent to Kona Airport. Right now, "We're waiting for Congress to come through with the money," Breeze said.
Meanwhile, Strickland explained that all military aircraft must "follow strict U.S. Marine Corps regulations and FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) approach and departure patterns and procedures from which they are not allowed to deviate."
The Marine Corps worked with the Air Force, reviewing aerial diagrams, environmental assessments and maps, and understands concerns regarding the proximity of C-17s and other aircraft flying near homes on Kaneohe Bay, he said.
Flight patterns and hours of operation are determined according "to safety, prevailing weather conditions and community regard," he said.
Air crews also often train by flying in the "local pattern."
"From the southeast vantage point of Kaneohe Bay, these maneuvers might appear to be needless circling around the airfield and bay without reason when in fact, these air crews are training for proficiency in landing their aircraft, practicing emergency procedures and refining critical aviation skills," Strickland said.
Both he and Breeze say there have been no increase in C-17 traffic or changes in flight paths, hours or regulations.
The C-17s have been training at Kaneohe Bay for about two years, Breeze said.
"We understand there are homes near the water and very near the flight path of incoming aircraft and regret any inconvenience aircraft noise may cause to the surrounding community," Strickland said. He said every effort is made to limit air traffic late at night, early in the morning and on weekends.
Asked if there were any way to mitigate the noise issues for the surrounding community, he said that's done by confining most operations between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., weekdays, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays.
"There are times that we modify airfield hours due to emergencies and training requirements," he said.
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