COLCHESTER - The Vermont Air National Guard on Friday released what they say is a "roadmap" to mitigate the environmental impacts of the F-35 fighter jet when it arrives in Burlington in 2020.
"The plan is an initial roadmap," said Vermont Air National Guard Col. T.J. Jackman at a news conference Friday. "The plan is a living document and will likely be updated several times before the F-35s arrive here in 2020."
After a contentious three-year process, the U.S. Air Force last year selected Burlington as the location for a fleet of 18 F-35 fighter jets to replace the Guard's aging F-16s.
Critics of the basing decision say the new jet will cause adverse health and environmental impacts. Their chief concern is that the new F-35s will be louder than the current F-16s.
According to the Air Force, the jets' arrival will expand the area around the Burlington International Airport affected by noise to include more than 2,000 homes with a 65 decibel day-night-average sound level.
The Guard's noise mitigation plan calls for a study after the F-35s arrive, which could take more than a year, Jackman said. However, he said the Guard will adjust flight patterns to reduce noise impacts immediately. This includes adjusting take-off procedures, flight altitudes, power settings and flight times, Guard officials said.
But opponents of the F-35 basing in Burlington, who are backed by a vocal and organized coalition, said the plan does not go far enough to ensure noise will be mitigated.
"This seems to be a case of the emperor has no clothes," said Rosanne Greco, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel and former South Burlington city councilor. "There's nothing in this document that says how this is going to relieve or reduce the noise impacts of this plane."
But Guard and airport officials said they need more data on the F-35 noise levels before they begin noise mitigation strategies. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also needs more information before it puts up any money for noise abatements.
"There are no promises because we don't know," said Gene Richards, director of aviation for the airport. "As far as the FAA, they will not do anything unless we have facts. That's what we don't have today is a lot of facts."