To whom it may concern,
First off, let me say that my family has had close ties with Naval Air Station Whidbey Island since before I was born. My father was one of the original sailors deployed to Whidbey Island back in 1940 to acquire the land which would become NASWI and OLF Coupeville.
My father retired in 1957, after 28 years active duty in the U.S. Navy. He loved it here. His last duty station was NASWI. Our family has stayed in the local area ever since. My mother and father have since passed, but my wife, born and raised on Whidbey Island, and I reside in a community called Admiral’s Cove, on Whidbey Island.
Our family has been here since the inception of NAS Whidbey Island to the present day. Hence, we have close ties to the Navy base. However, I feel compelled to complain about the jet noise. The noise has become too much to bear, it is going to get worse, and I feel I must speak out.
Years ago the airplanes were propeller driven. And, they were fun to watch. As the years advanced the prop planes were replaced by jet planes. They were still fun to watch. However, over the years, the noise levels from the jets have gone from minor nuisance levels in the 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, to the point of painful now. They may still be fun to watch, but they are nearly unbearable to listen to. You can hear them from miles away. Up close they are painful. No other way to describe it. You cannot be in close proximity without ear protection when the EA-6’s and EA-18’s are flying low and performing touch and go landings. We live directly under the approach flight path of OLF Coupeville. When we purchased our property, and eventually built our home here, the jet traffic was considerably less frequent. We could tolerate it because it did not last for too long of a time. And, it was seldom repeated on the next day. I estimated that the training time was 1% of the total time.
It is no longer infrequent. The training sessions have increased from approximately 3 hours for 1 or 2 days a month to 10-12 hours a day, 5 days a week, for several weeks at a time. And the Navy proposal is to increase the number of planes stationed at NASWI from approximately 6 to 16 planes. My estimate is that the training will increase to 15-20% of the total time spent living here. This is not what we bargained for. I was stationed on an Air Force base in Viet Nam with jets coming and going at all hours of the day and night. It was never as bad as it is here when the training sessions are on. Not even close.
It has been very pleasant during the six month moratorium on OLF Coupeville time period. My blood pressure has gone down 20 points during the moratorium. And, I can sleep at night. I can watch TV. I can fish. I can garden. Life is good, as it should be.
The EA-6’s have always had a reputation for noise. We were told the EA-18’s would be quieter. That is definitely not the case. The EA-18’s are easily worse than the EA-6’s. When flying at higher altitudes the planes pass overhead quickly and the noise dissipates within a few seconds. But, during touch and go practice the planes approach the runway at a low altitude. They do not “glide” down to the runway. The
approach is to fly level at approximately 500 feet just above stall speed. So, the throttles are “on” nearly constantly. The roar of the throttle jockeying lasts approximately 20-30 seconds for each plane. And, then after the “touch” the throttle is pushed fully forward for the takeoff. Then you get another blast, still loud, but bearable because of the distance away, for another 10-20 seconds. Then, a 30 second pause, and another plane comes and it starts all over again. This happens just above our rooftops.
Anyone who argues with me on this point is welcome to come to my house and stand outside my house without ear protection. Better still, go farther up the hill in the neighborhood and give it a listen. The planes are even closer to the ground there, approximately 300 to 400 feet above the ground.
We used to be able to tolerate the noise when there were a few EA-6’s doing touch and go landings, 1 or 2 days a month, for a couple of hours each time. But in recent years there have been many periods of time where 4, 5, or even 6 EA-18’s, and an occasional EA-6 (or 2), will fly nearly all day in a continuous roar. When it is like this, people cannot go outside without ear protection. If you do, it is painful to your eardrums. This is no joke. It hurts! And, the flying sometimes goes on for 5 – 6 days in a row, week after week. There is no peace here anymore. The flying sometimes starts mid-morning and goes as late as 1 AM. I get at 5 AM to go to work. I drive to work tired before I even get there! I imagine many others are in the same predicament.
One time I was mowing my mother-in-law’s lawn (she lives on the hill), while an EA-6 was doing touch and go landings. When the plane flew directly overhead (at about 300-400 feet) I could not tell if the lawn mower was still running. It was, though I could not hear it, and I was holding the handle! My mother-in-law is closer to the runway, but there are a lot of houses up in that area are directly under the final approach. It is bad at my house but it is absolutely deafening up the hill from us. There are hundreds of homes here that are severely affected.
All a person can do during the touch and go landings is go inside your house and close all the windows, even if it is during hot summer weather. Don’t bother trying to watch TV, you can’t hear it. The windows rattle, the house shakes. Forget gardening, fishing, beachcombing, or doing anything outside. And, we are helpless to stop it.
The problem is compounded by the planes not flying during inclement weather. During rainy, foggy or even windy weather we would have our windows closed anyway. The planes seem to be fair weather fliers. And the heaviest training schedules seem to be during summer time.
I recently attended the Scoping Meeting and read the pamphlet provided by NASWI titled:
Scoping Meeting US Navy EIS for the EA-18G Growler Airfield Operations at NASWI
Inside the pamphlet, on Page10, there was data regarding sound level readings. The data on the left side of the page was presented in a Day-Night Average Sound Level format. Just to look at those numbers one would be lead to believe that the highest level of impact would be about as loud as a typical conversation! Those charts are terribly misleading. I understand how, and why, the measurements are achieved, but they are not very truthful. Averaging the sound levels while the jets are not operating,
while it is almost totally quiet, greatly skews the averages. The averaging achieves a much more presentable number than the true sound levels created while the jets are operating. However, when the jets are practicing landings at OLF Coupeville the noise levels presented are much closer to the readings indicated on the right hand chart, bottom row, 115dB and 116dB at 600 feet for EA-6’s and EA-18’s, respectively. This would result in approximately +50dB higher than the Day-Night Average sound level would have you believe.
And, when the jets approach from the South, which is the most frequent approach direction, the actual approach height is less than 600 feet above the houses in the nearby neighborhood of Admiral’s Cove. More like 300-400 feet, which would likely add another 3 to 5dB, give or take. This is a community of men, women, children, pets, wildlife, farm animals, etc. It is not the deck of an aircraft carrier where this type of noise is expected. It is an obscene amount of noise and it is not healthy.
At the very least, new measurements should be taken in the affected areas during actual flying operations. It is not fair to use Day-Night Average mumbo jumbo designed to skew the results towards ridiculously acceptable results for the Navy.
We realize that the sound levels are absolutely the worst when in direct alignment with the final approach to OLF, but the reality is that a lot of people live there, and have lived there before the greatly increased jet traffic began. Our health, safety and welfare are greatly diminished by the excessive traffic and noise levels. Real estate values are greatly suppressed in the area due to the increased traffic and noise levels.
EA-6 and EA-18 training at OLF Coupeville should cease. At the very least, the training schedules need to be greatly reduced so that there is a LOT more down time. Then, the Day-Night Average Sound levels might actually mean something. Or, OLF Coupeville could be sold and become a badly needed commercial air strip serving Whidbey Island.
The people who live here do not want to run the Navy off. We don’t want to be run off either. If you could install mufflers on the damn things, we’d all be happy.
Tom and Kitty Stewart
165 Keystone Ave.
Coupeville, WA 98239
Another Citizen speaks out!