Letter to Island County Commissioners regarding jet noise over Whidbey Island homes

To: Madam Commissioners,

I need your help! I am having trouble trying to understand why the Commissioners’ actions don’t line up with the Island County Mission Statement. The principles that are to guide action are as follows:

Provide for the long term health and safety of the people, the economy and our natural resources.
Assure customer service & promote operational excellence and efficiencies of Island County.
Promote active participation in government.
Fulfill our constitutional responsibilities, holding ourselves to a high standard of accountability, transparency, ethics and fairness.
Maintain agricultural & recreational opportunities while strengthening our economic vitality.

I would assume your principles are in priority order, with “Provide for the long term health and safety of the people” holding the top priority position. Does the health and safety of the citizens in the flight path and crash zone who are at extreme health risk outweigh the majority of voters who fear for their economic security? Of course that would depend on the extent of the health risk.

There is plenty of research that supports the extent of the risk, and it is obvious to anyone who has spent time at my home when the jets are flying that this is dangerous business – noise far above the 115 decibel level set by OSHA. The noise from the Navy jets a block from my house was recorded at 134. The United States Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Noise Abatement and Control states that this noise level causes “serious physical and psychological stress.” It has also been proven to cause circulatory problems and high blood pressure (even if you are sound asleep) which can lead to heart disease. Please take time to look up the Department of Defense Design Criteria Standard Noise Limits (MIL-STE-1474D) pages 65 to 70 which deals with Aircraft Noise in the Military. The bottom line that it is “FORBIDDEN FOR ANYONE IN THE MILITARY TO BE EXPOSED TO A DECIBEL LEVEL HIGHER THAN 115db without protection”. A sound of 134db is exponentially louder that a sound of 115db, meaning, like earthquakes, the increase of 19 decibels is more than 19 equal units. Also, Please take the time to check the following web site: ( Here you will discover that the Navy considers any “sound above 84 db as hazardous or having the potential to cause hearing loss” and they require personnel to wear double hearing protection at that level. Even with all of this MANDATORY ear protection, from 1968 to 2006 the Navy paid out $6.48 BILLION in veteran disability benefits for hearing loss alone, and yet they expose civilizations to this health risk

The quality of life on Central Whidbey has decreased dramatically and it is going to decrease even more in the future. Have you taken the time to check the enrollment in the Coupeville schools? It is dropping of course, and I can guess why. We now have four abandoned homes in Admirals Cove – not just vacant, but abandoned. Participating in any outdoor activity is risky when the jets are flying.

I know jobs are a big issue. I have been told that 87% of the economy of Oak Harbor and basically the north part of the island is dependent on military payroll. I understand that and I do not want it to be jeopardized. I for one would not be happy if one person lost their job over this. This is a touchy situation but it can be resolved if we all work together and don’t draw a line too fast. I realize that people that hold public office will cater to the majority to assure reelection. However, it is not fair to ignore the health of the minority instead of pursuing better options.
Most of the people I have met that would like to have OLF moved are afraid to speak out because of reprisal. The pro OLF people have been very visible with signs, Tee shirts, and even bumper stickers. I wonder who paid for and distributed all of this stuff. The sound you hear is not “THE SOUND OF FREEDOM”; it is the sound of money. “JETS EQUALS JOBS” really spells it out.

People accuse home buyers who sign the Noise Disclosure Statement of being responsible for their situation. I did sign a certificate when I purchased my home indicating that there was an airport nearby. But I used to live next to John Wayne International airport in Orange County California and for thirty years I hardly knew it existed. Living in Southern California, I have been around aircraft all of my life and even worked at Douglas Aircraft and never had a problem with the jet noise until now. The OLF noise is very different from “airport noise.” Our noise goes far beyond the 75+ listed on the chart.

If the jets are allowed to fly again, I would have grounds to open a class action lawsuit against the Navy, as they have already admitted in writing that my long term hearing will be permanently damaged. Hearing loss does not happen instantly, but over a period of time it will, depending on how loud the sound is. THIS SOUND FROM THE JETS IS ILLEGAL! If I came to your office and duplicated the sound, I would be arrested. I would never do that because I would permanently damage your hearing.

I really resent people that imply that I don’t want the pilots to be trained correctly or even that I am not patriotic enough because I want to decrease my health risk and improve the safety of the people living near OLF. I served in the Navy during the Vietnam war and I have always been pro Navy. But I’m very, very disappointed with their actions now.

Other people may not have first hand knowledge of jet flight risks. I was at Miramar Naval Air station in December of 1969 when one of our jets crashed into a hanger killing fourteen people. The pilot escaped, of course. If the accident had happened any other time of the year, many more people would have been killed. I’m sure the government is still paying the survivors and dependents of that crash. We had a salvage ship permanently stationed in San Diego that we used to retrieve the jets lost in training over the Ocean. I know of a variety of Navy jets that have crashed into residential neighborhoods from San Diego to Long Beach because we lived in this area for 65 years. I remember the one that went down in 2008 in San Diego that killed three generations in one family. The grandmother, mother and two daughters all died in the crash but again, the pilot escaped with no injuries. I believe the Navy paid the surviving family members 17 million dollars.

I think there might be many ideas for how to provide quality training, protect the economy of Whidbey island, and protect the health and safety of citizens. Here is a really off the wall idea I think should be explored. I believe everything needs to be considered at this point. The airstrip they have in Oak Harbor is perfect. The planes come in over the water and take off over the water. There are two parallel runways at Miramar that are about 500 feet apart which were kept busy day and night practicing touch and go landings. If it is dark enough for night landings in San Diego, it is dark enough for night landings in Oak Harbor. Why not build a second runway in Oak Harbor next to the existing one. The land at OLF could be sold to the public and the Navy would probably have money left over.

I hope you took the time to read this. I apologize for the length, but this is critically important to me and to a lot of people. I would appreciate at least a simple one line e-mail response letting me know you actually did read it. Please do not send me a canned response as it would serve no purpose. If I don’t receive a response, then I know you did not take the time to read what I had to say, and I should look for another way to communicate. Thanks if you did.


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  1. Ann Adams

    This is really good firsthand information, and I would like to see it in letters to the editor in the local papers. It would need to be condensed to 300 words, but the main points could fit into that word limit.

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