What is a crash zone, should homes be built there, and should the Navy fly Growler jets 250 feet over homes where citizens were not warned of the crash risk when they bought? Should our nation at large be concerned that Congress and the US Navy expect civilians to pay the price when neighborhoods are being used as a runway because Congress won’t fund one that is safe, where civilians won’t be forced to live aircraft carrier lives?
What is a Crash Zone?
A crash zone, or Accident Potential Zone (APZ), is defined by two criteria: 1) the measurements of the area under the flight path and 2) the number of flights flown each year.
The NASWI AICUZ brochure was developed for the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island at great expense to measure and communicate noise and crash risk to the public. It includes maps noting the zones with the greatest crash risk, including OLF Coupeville (the outlying field located 16 miles south of the base used for carrier landing practice) and the AULT field (located on the base). This information is important because housing and other structures are not recommended in an APZ because of the danger of an accident. There is no evidence the brochure was ever used by the County or by real estate professionals to provide information to builders or buyers as intended.
The graphic below shows the AICUZ measurements for flight path zones. The actual runway would be located to the left of the Clear Zone. (click to enlarge).
Are there crash zones on either side of the runway at the OLF as there are at the end of the runways at the Ault Field in Oak Harbor?
Here are the designated crash zones around the AULT found on page 5-11 of the AICUZ study: (click to enlarge)
Look at the map for the OLF below from page 5-17 from the same AICUZ. The yellow clear zones are designated, but the crash zones that should extend to the water on both sides are not. This is surprising, because the Navy states that landing jets on a carrier is the most difficult and potentially dangerous maneuver pilots must perform, and the OLF Coupeville is where new pilots practice before attempting an actual carrier landing. (Click to enlarge)
Here are the APZ 1 and 2 zones drawn in, where a crash is most likely to occur:
Below is the aerial view of the south side of the runway, showing the clear zone (the area cleared of tress) and Admiral’s Cove, sitting squarely in the crash zone. The county still issues building permits and several homes are currently under construction. (click to enlarge)
It should be noted how low pilots are required to fly over these homes. Look at the Navy produced graphic below of the prescribed OLF flight path, showing that the planes are required to fly between 440 and down to 300 feet AGL (above ground level) over Admiral’s Cove. Pilots say they are often 50 feet lower. Might they ever fly even lower than that as many have claimed?
Altitude creates both the extreme noise problem and the crash risk. Homes should never have been built in Admiral’s Cove and none should ever have been sold. It is unimaginable that they were built and sold without full noise and crash risk disclosure.
Has Admiral’s Cove met the 5,000 operations/year criteria for designation as a crash zone in the past?
The Navy set 6,120 operations a year for the EA study and exceeded that number by May of 2013. It would seem, then, that “national defense needs” have often required more flights in the past, and may do so again without constant legal action.
There are 112 EA-18 Growlers currently flying at the NASWI. There will be 153 by 2017. If they are already funded, can we expect that “national defense needs” will require pilots be trained for the addition 41 planes, increasing the training required by almost 50%? The AULT is already overburdened. The planes will be ready. The Navy has specified the need. The EIS will be complete.
It seems everything is set to easily surpass the 5,000 mark, as has been the norm in the past. Here are the operations numbers presented for the years 1967-1991. There was only one year when the criteria was not met.
The Navy crafted a solution to lower the numbers by adding additional tracks to divide the total. In the following graphic, you again see flight path 14 and 32. But others are defined too, ready to bring the limit to 10,000. There are homes under the overlapping paths, but maybe no one will notice. (click to enlarge)
Using both flight path 14 and 32 for Prowler training doubled the capacity at the OLF, but at a cost. The use of flight path 14 degraded the quality of training because tight turns are not a component of carrier landings. It also increased the risk for pilots, the aircraft, and the population below.
That flight path presents even more serious problems for Growlers. The Navy explained the problem in court documents prepared for the COER law suit in 2015:
Look again at Flight Path 14. Does that replicate carrier landings as the Navy says pilots require?
In addition, Captain Nortier said:
the EA 6B and A-6 could operate within accepted parameters and use runway 14 when meteorological conditions favored this runway. The EA-18G has a slightly different required flight profile in the FCLP pattern due to differences in weight and flight characteristics. As a result, the EA-18G cannot safely operate within the confines of the daytime runway 14 parameters currently in place. Until the EIS study is complete, runway 14 is rarely used for FCLPs.
The Navy will likely continue to develop plans to overuse the OLF to prevent any military dollars from being allotted to move it. Only Congress can say enough is enough.
Why is it important to designate crash zones?
People need to know where crash zones exist because:
- Growlers are much more likely to crash than Prowlers and the fear factor can make life miserable. People should have the opportunity to manage risk for their families.
- Resale can be affected because many agencies like HUD won’t loan on properties in the crash zone.
- They could be officially designated at any time, trashing property value; yet, people should know before they buy.
- See Growler Jets 36 Times More Likely to Crash than Prowler Jets at http://washingtonenvironmentalprotectioncoalition.org/how-growler-jets-harm-people/3-1-growler-jets-36-times-more-likely-to-crash-than-prowler-jets.
At some point entrapment and persecution must stop and the people who have been trapped and persecuted must be made whole.
Who benefits from hiding OLF crash zones?
The County benefits from limited disclosure of noise and no disclosure of the crash risk. Increased sales to ill-informed buyers creates economic growth, tax revenues, and personal benefits for the policy-makers.
The vast majority on Whidbey Island believe the widely disseminated myth that if the OLF was moved, the base would close. Despite the growth of the base, investment in infrastructure, the strategic location, and a location to draw personnel, fear wins over logic. The Navy has never said that the base would be moved if the OLF Coupeville was moved, but the Navy benefits greatly from the myth.
The Navy enjoys its popularity with a large population that benefits from deceiving buyers and then persecuting them. Community, city, county, and state leaders are elected by people who believe supporting the OLF protects their jobs. During elections, candidates cater to these beliefs, especially by those with limited leadership skills and little else to offer.
Flying over crash zones where buyers had no warning for 20 years must surely be an embarrassment for the Navy, and many would prefer that decisions regarding Growler jets not be made with this in mind.
Designating crash zones won’t protect this community or even future buyers who move in after others who have had enough move out. Neither will noise disclosure, title searches, noise law, or NEPA. Congress must be told a civilian population is at risk and the persecution of US Citizens must stop. See Contact Congress to easily contact the right people by email, phone, or fax.