Sound familiar? Right down to the “why don’t you move” comments!

Guest Commentary

Now is your chance to comment about a loud, unproven airplane that could come to Tucson
by Anne Gomez | February 16, 2012
Anne Gomez is a member of Tucson Forward.
Little has been heard around town regarding something that could change Tucson forever—the F-35.

The Air Force is holding hearings on Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 22 and 23, to receive public comment on an environmental impact statement that proposes bringing the military’s loudest jet to a commercial airport.

The National Environmental Policy Act requires that an EIS be done when the federal government proposes substantial changes. Some think that if nobody knows about these changes, dissent will quietly go away.

About a month ago, the Air Force sent out a slick executive summary along with a CD of the 1,000-page draft EIS. The Air Force has asked the public to comment on their proposal to station up to 72 F-35s at the Tucson Air National Guard Station at the Tucson International Airport. You can find the EIS online at

It’s pretty tough stuff for the ordinary guy to understand. The data originally published listed the noise level of the F-35A to be 22 decibels louder than the F-16C upon landing. Without explanation, the Air Force changed 22 decibels to nine decibels.

It doesn’t make sense to house the F-35 at TIA. This new jet is too loud for a commercial airport in a metropolitan area. Along with increased noise, there is also increased force, which can shake buildings and break windows. Especially in light of the recently altered noise data, it is important that a flyover be done so that Tucsonans can see how loud the jet actually is in a dry desert area surrounded by mountains. Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the Military Community Relations Committee and Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, prior to his election, all called for a local flyover of the F-35.

The safety-risk analysis in the EIS is pure conjecture. The F-35 is a brand-new aircraft incorporating new technologies. There is no historical safety data. The EIS simply states: “Because the F-35A is a new aircraft that is under development, some data normally used to predict noise, air quality and safety conditions cannot be obtained at this time.” It then strangely concludes that “there would be no anticipated increase in safety risks associated with aircraft mishaps.”

There is also a question of environmental justice, one of the NEPA criteria. The Tucson International Airport is the only one of the four F-35 alternatives where the draft EIS clearly states that the noise impact will fall disproportionately on low-income and minority populations. At the assignment level of 72 F-35As, it is projected that an additional 8,128 residents will be affected by noise levels greater than 65 decibels. The Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Defense state that areas with noise levels greater than 65 decibels are “incompatible with residential use.”

Many of those supporting the proposal say: “Tucson needs jobs.” However, these jobs may not go to current residents. This will be a short-term gain and does not take into account the long-term loss of income from the tourism industry or property-tax revenue.

The supporters of bringing the F-35 to town include many of our friends, like the moving-company owner who has Air Force contracts and lives in the foothills, and the restaurant owner who also lives in the foothills and is flattered by being named an honorary wing commander. He is told that the F-35 will bring him more business. However, his home won’t experience the consequences of an airplane with 45,000 pounds of thrust.

The F-35 draft EIS public hearings will include an open-house information session from 5 to 6 p.m., followed by a presentation and formal public-comment session from 6 to 8 p.m. Representatives from the Air Force will be available during the open-house sessions to provide information and to answer questions. The sessions take place on Wednesday, Feb. 22, in the North Ballroom at the Holiday Inn Tucson Airport, 4550 S. Palo Verde Road; and on Thursday, Feb. 23, in the auditorium of the Tucson Jewish Community Center, 3800 E. River Road.

The deadline for public comment is March 14. Comments can be submitted via email.

Guest Commentary

anne gomez

tucson forward

f-35 tucson
Comments (12)
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Interesting. I need more information before I can say either way. I will say, I live in mid-town directly under the path of our airplanes from DM. If I’m out in my garden, I proudly stand and wave to every one that goes by. I consider myself somewhat of an activist and environmentalist, but also had a father that proudly served in the Air Force for 20 yrs as a pilot through Korea and Vietnam. I remember the flight path directly over the UA in the 80s. Prof literally had to stop talking while the planes flew over. I don’t know why, it never really bothered me. Obviously, the path was changed due to safety issues (and a crash that could have been much worse). I guess what bothers me more than anything is, there were no houses surrounding these airfields when they were built. So why should we bitch now?
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Posted by Pamela Lynne Culhane-Turner on 02/16/2012 at 8:16 AM

F-35s are single jet engine aircraft. Air Force pilots call such aircraft, because engine failure guarantees a immediate crash to earth, “lawn darts.” These instruments of destruction need to be kept far away from ground-based humans – at least this one.
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Posted by Enoughisenough on 02/16/2012 at 9:36 AM

The information we are getting from the Air Force is pretty sketchy. First they came out in the EIS and said that when landing the F-35A would be over four times as loud as the F-16C. Then they came out and said..oops, it’s only about twice as loud as the F-16. Who knows. We need a fly-over. Nobody knows where the figures come from or where they will be flying.
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Posted by Sally on 02/16/2012 at 9:45 AM

The F35 is a perfect example of the follies of the dying USAmerican Empire…

It’s an airplane built to fight the Soviet Union (remember, that Empire that died in 1989?) and now “re-purposed” to fight the USAmerican F16 which has been sold to petty dictators around the Earth — how convenient…sell the top line fighter around the world and then claim that “we” have to build one that’s “better”…

It’s already years late because THEY CAN’T BUILD THE DAMN THINGS SO THEY’LL STAY IN THE AIR. They’re overly complex, EXPENSIVE to build, DOUBLY EXPENSIVE to maintain and who the HELL are they going to be fighting.

The answer is, follow the money. These pigs of the air will make buckets and buckets of money for the fat pigs who have already ripped off TRILLIONS of USAmerican taxpayer dollars from the “wars” in Iraq and Afghanistan, from NATO and a thousand “bases” around the world and the other hundreds of military adventures since World War II.

So, even setting aside the facts that this airplane will HARM our local economy, make life even MORE difficult here and act as a net INCOME DRAIN from our area, it’s in the “service” of the dying Empire and the collapsing “Permanent War Economy(tm)”…and basically evil.

If the City Mothers and Fathers want to improve things in Tucson they will embrace the concept of creating a truly sustainable infrastructure retrofitting housing, water harvesting, local agriculture and manufacturing of the things we NEED, not the Wal-Mart CRAP to fill unmet needs, and services that allow us to become viable, sustainable community instead of just another vassal outpost of the dying Empire.

War and its machinery are a DEADLY, immoral and dead-end activity to be promoting!
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Posted by ChetDude on 02/16/2012 at 10:23 AM

I have a great deal of respect for the folks at Tucson Forward that have taken the lead in bringing awareness of the problems of the F-35 to light. Many can say that the aircraft will eventually be proven and as safe as any other fighter. But none can say that the Air Force is going to put a muffler on this jet, and none can say that they will put the communities affected by their aircraft before their goals.

We stand at a point where we may very well see 72 or more aircraft based at TIA flying and disturbing the lives of thousands on a daily basis. The F-16, marvelous, safe and proven aircraft that it is, is still quite loud and intrusive. They call this noise intrusion “The Sound Of Freedom.” Whose freedom? The 162nd Fighter Wing trains **FOREIGN PILOTS.**

And here’s a key thing: these are kids. This is a new fighter being flown by new pilots. Doesn’t that sound even more scary? Ever hear an F-16 flying overhead, alternately going to full thrust and backing off quickly? That’s because there’s a noobie at the controls, getting used to an unfamiliar aircraft, trying to land safely. These jets are *not* easy to fly. And they are learning how to fly them right over our heads. That’s a serious danger, folks, not just the single engine.

Some say…”Don’t like the noise? MOVE!” Well, I live right under the approach path to runways 11L & 11R at TIA, and I can’t remotely afford to. And I live in a mobile home, so there’s no way that my home can be soundproofed. And there’s no way that they would even try. I’ve done my homework. If the F-35 comes to Tucson I and other people in my situation, and there are many, will be totally left out in the cold to just suffer the noise.

Gila Bend is far more remote but just as convenient to the ranges and weather these trainees need. Marana is just as good of an alternative, and their runway sits idle over 90% of the time. Building these fields into more suitable training facilities would be far better for their local economies, adding jobs and preserving Tucson’s tourism climate.

No, it’s clear to me that any elected or appointed official in the great City of Tucson and Pima Country that actually wants to do good for their constituents will take off their money blinders and see the bigger picture, and a future of Tucson that isn’t remotely as rosey as they seem to think it might be. Fast cash injections mean votes, and that means politics is leading here, not sound thinking.

Go Tucson Forward!! You folks totally rock.
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Posted by Duck And Cover! on 02/16/2012 at 1:53 PM

Without the air force base the town would have been in worse shape. If people can only say no, then they should have migrated to a town with no base. A few whiners and things become a big deal in this town.
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Posted by JuanGous on 02/16/2012 at 3:40 PM

I think the town would be better off without the base. I know it just depends on what one thinks is important in life. Think about what we give up for those jobs. Isn’t the government trying to buy more land around the airport for a buffer zone? Won’t we have to pay for that, too? It costs us a lot to keep those few jobs here.
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Posted by Cascabel on 02/17/2012 at 8:43 PM

We all know the reason we wont get a fly over….these planes are going to be 2-4 times louder that the F-16. If we have an opportunity to hear the noise we will all say no.
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Posted by Charlie D on 02/18/2012 at 12:13 AM

It’s true that there weren’t any houses surrounding the airfields when they were built. Back in those days, Tucson was a small, back water town and there wasn’t much of anything, anywhere.
But times have changed and Tucson is now a city with a large population. Having kids learn how to fly airplanes 500 feet over our heads – let alone an unproven jet fighter – sounds like a bad idea to me. Certainly the military must also see the danger in it. Why endanger innocent people if you dont have to?
They are the Government…why dont they go out in the middle of the desert and build a “company town” to do this training? Then they could make rules about where people could and could not live. And anyone who wanted to live there would have to sign a release regarding the danger, noise and polution they would be exposed to.
And I don’t understand why the military is shutting down bases that have lots and lots of land around them and keeping the ones that are right in the middle of heavily populated areas? Does that make sense to someone?

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Posted by JLIL on 02/18/2012 at 12:10 PM

I just moved back from living in Alamogordo NM ie Holloman AFB, home of the Raptor.
Anyone who thinks they want the F35 in Tucson needs to visit Holloman, I recommend any Tues or Thursday starting around 8:00 am. The noise is insane. Ever experience a sonic boom? Ever experience a sonic boom that shakes and rattles everything in your house, that makes you jump a couple of feet in the air, a boom that sounds like a bomb going off? They were common – like several times a week. And the periodic night flights provided good water cooler talk – “Did you that boom at 11:30 wake you up?” “No but the one at 2:00 sure did.”
Holloman and the town of Alamogordo wants the F35 – let them have it. It is the perfect location – in the middle of nowhere. That’s where these planes belong. Those of you who want The F35 have no idea what you are asking for.
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Posted by Dot C on 02/19/2012 at 11:00 PM

This is like listening to a bunch of hippies from California…..why don’t you progressives feel this way about Obama’s large government debt and complain about that also…..
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Posted by Bob Cap on 03/01/2012 at 8:30 AM

Bob Cap Says…This is like listening to a bunch of hippies from California…..why don’t you progressives feel this way about Obama’s large government debt and complain about that also….

Why is Capt. Bob so forgetful about how this big nasty US Gov got its monstrous debt? Using Capt. Bob’s air tight thinking, we should denigrate our environment and bring on the Raptor (with zero due diligence), dig the Rosemont Mine, commit to Capt. Al Melvin’s Nuke Dump jobs plan in Saddlebrook, add a couple more unfunded wars, and crater the economy Bush style and all will be just fine? I am progressive, and I learn that critical thinking is good.

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Posted by Charlie D on 03/01/2012 at 11:33 AM

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