Why we want the Navy find a new OLF site to train young pilots in safer conditions, part 3


On 10 August 2007, the Naval Audit Service began a broad audit of “Consideration of Safety and Occupational Health Issues in the Acquisition of Major Department of Navy (DON) Weapons Systems and Platforms.” Evaluators conducted this audit of the “Consideration of Hazardous Noise in the Acquisition of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler Strike Fighter Variants” between 9 January 2008 and 14 August 2008.

The Navy’s Auditors found:

1) Most military jet aircraft emit noise levels between 140-150dB.

2) According to Navy evaluators, the EA-18G will emit, a maximum of 150 dBs, which is well above the noise level considered hazardous to hearing. Anything greater than 84 dBs is considered hazardous!

3) The normal human pain threshold is around 120dB. According to DOD Instruction 6055.12, at a noise level of 150 dB, the maximum daily exposure time with current technology hearing protection worn correctly is only 8.9 seconds before permanent hearing loss occurs!

4) The Navy did not attempt to mitigate the jet noise hazard in the initial design and development of the aircraft, did not follow required guidance relating to risk levels and risk acceptance authority levels, and did not track the flight-line/deck jet noise hazard and its residual mishap risk.

5) These conditions may contribute to a hazardous environment of high noise exposure associated with jet aircraft that, according to the Naval Safety Center, increases the likelihood of permanent hearing loss to sailors and Marines. Mitigation of these known noise levels was not pursued, as noted in this report, because of the costs to retrofit these aircraft.

Other Known Impacts of Noise Highlighted by Navy’s Auditors

Noise Effects on Children: Research on the impacts of aircraft noise, and noise in general, on the cognitive abilities of school-aged children has received much attention in recent years. Studies suggest that aircraft noise can affect the academic performance of schoolchildren. Studies involving the testing of attention, memory, and reading comprehension of schoolchildren located near airports showed that their tests exhibited reduced performance results compared to those of similar groups of children who were located in quieter environments (Evans, et al. 1995; Haines, et al. 1998).

More than 800 children go to school every day in Central Whidbey, have outdoor sports, and have homework to do at night in a high noise environment and within an Accident Potential Zone.

Citizens for the Reserve are getting maximum readings as a jet crosses overhead of 100-119dB and 90dB to over 100 dB’s in our homes while jets practice touch and goes over the course of the day and into the night. Note, hearing protection, like muffs or ear-plugs is needed at 85 dB to prevent hearing loss.

Noise Effects on Historical and Archaeological Sites:

Because of the potential for increased fragility of structural components of historical buildings and other historical sites, aircraft noise may affect such sites more severely than newer, modern structures. Particularly in older structures, seemingly insignificant surface cracks initiated by vibrations from aircraft noise may lead to greater damage from natural forces (Hanson, et al.1991).

Historic Structures in Ebey’s National Historical Reserve, a National Park, are being restored and cannot be protected from vibration of the low-flying T&G operations at OLF, where decreased altitudes increase decibel levels. Millions of federal dollars have been invested in preservation of habitat, wildlife, and visitor information for visitors that travel to Central Whidbey & the Reserve.

Property Values within a noise zone (or Accident Potential Zone) may be affected by the availability of federally guaranteed loans. According to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Federal Housing Administration (FHA), and Veterans Administration (VA) guidance sites are acceptable for program assistance, subsidy, or insurance for housing in noise zones of less than 65 DNL, and sites are conditionally acceptable with special approvals and noise attenuation in the 65 to 75 DNL noise zone and the greater than 75 DNL noise zone.

Although realtors have a ‘dated’ noise disclosure document for buyers, they do not warn potential buyers that homes may be located in potential crash zones. Additionally, insurance agencies most likely are unaware that homes they insure on Whidbey Island are in potential noise and crash zones.

Noise-induced structural vibration may cause annoyance to dwelling occupants due to induced secondary vibrations, or rattling of objects within the dwelling. Windowpanes may vibrate when exposed to high levels of airborne noise. In general, such noise-induced vibrations occur at peak sound levels of 110 dB or greater.

Other Communities Respond To High Noise Levels: In 2011, the Navy announced it would not pursue building a new OLF in North Carolina until at least 2014. Instead, the search for an OLF site will turn to the west coast where the Navy plans to locate air squadrons there first, according to a Navy spokesman. Gov. Bev Purdue, former Gov. Mike Easley, senators Richard Burr and Kay Hagan all were outspoken opponents of the OLF in NC.

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