12/12/05 — From 50% to 58%: Severe hazard periods are close

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From 50% to 58%: Severe hazard periods are close

The U.S. Navy last week called off test flights of an F-18 Super Hornet over a potential landing field site in Hyde County after a single approach by one of the aircraft.

The pilot had radioed that large numbers of waterfowl posed a safety hazard.

Earlier, the pilot had made several passes over a proposed outlying landing field site in nearby Washington County despite the presence of large numbers of waterfowl, including tundra swan.

Opponents of the OLF site say the “tests” should have been a wake-up call to the Navy which was temporarily blocked by a federal judge from taking private land for the OLF. The court held that the Navy’s environmental impact analysis was inadequate.

Those opposing the takeover of 1,157 acres for the site have contended the Navy’s environmental analysis was deliberately skewed to justify appropriateness of that specific site.

The site adjoins a National Wildlife Refuge that attracts hundreds of thousands of migrating waterfowl that winter in North Carolina.

Despite objections from elected officials and environmental agencies, the Navy has persisted in its efforts and already has spent $3.7 million buying land — plus whatever has gone for its “studies” and other efforts.

Indeed, the Navy has wanted to press on with buying land even after the courts have raised serious questions about whether it the site could ever by acceptable.

The Navy has ruled out an alternative site near Lake Mattamuskeet because it poses a “severe bird-strike hazard during 58 percent of the year.”

In the same breath, the Navy continues to insist upon the site a few air miles away near Pocosin Wildlife Refuge because it would have a “severe bird-strike risk for (only) 50 percent of the year.”

Fifty percent Vs 58 percent?

The public must wonder about the significance and adequacy of that eight percent difference in “severe hazards” to our brave pilots and those big birds.

Published in Editorials on December 12, 2005 10:01 AM