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W.Va. residents air opinions on bigger planes for 167th

February 18, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

Martinsburg, W.Va. - Comments voiced during a public hearing Tuesday evening about the 167th Airlift Wing's plans to switch from C-130 planes to larger and louder C-5s ranged from wholehearted approval to concerns about land values and possible hardships to the owners of small private planes.

Four people spoke during the hearing. Participants also could give their comments to a stenographer in private or submit written comments, which will be accepted until March 16.

Col. William R. Gain, air commander for the 167th, said public comments will play a part in deciding whether the C-5s should come to Martinsburg.

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Those who spoke favorably of the C-5 plan included Rodney Woods, a retired principal who worked at Valley View Elementary School for 12 years. Valley View, about a mile from the base, for years has been business partners with the Air Guard, he said.

Woods said bringing the C-5s to Martinsburg ensures the base will endure.

After the public comment period, Lt. Col. Roger Sencindiver said nothing is guaranteed as far as the base's future.

While bringing in C-5s better ensures the base will continue operations, C-130s again showed their value during the war in Iraq, he said.

Personnel from the 167th house, fly and maintain 12 C-130s.

Those who expressed concern about the C-5 plan included Roscoe Rauch, who said that while the 167th has been a good neighbor, he worries that the crosswind runway will be lost. Private plane owners rely on that north-south runway, he said.

Rauch said he has heard of plans to move the runway closer to U.S. 11. That's so far, he said, that pilots may require a tire change to taxi all the way there.

Rauch suggested that the dirt dug up during construction be hauled to the south end of the main runway, where it could be used to build a crosswind runway.

Sencindiver later said that if the C-5s arrive, private pilots will still be able to use the base's main runway. The current crosswind runway must be closed to make way for several necessary buildings, he said.

Air Guard officials have not ruled out the idea of moving the crosswind runway to another location, he said.

Ray Bartley who for decades has owned land about 300 yards off the end of the main runway, said he feels he is between "a rock and a hard place."

Men and women in the 167th deserve a lot of credit for serving during both good and hard times, said Bartley, who said his son served for 13 years.

But Bartley said he worries that land values will decrease if the base grows and that his own land will be subject to even more stress than it is now.

"Facts are facts. I can't change them. The land that we have certainly has to suffer from the conversion," Bartley said.

Military and civilian personnel were on hand to answer questions before or after the public comment session.

Maj. Matt Godfrey, stationed at the Stewart Air National Guard base in Newburgh, N.Y., has been flying C-5s for 13 years.

Godfrey said C-5s are designed to carry a lot of cargo and can go just about anywhere. Because the planes have a large cargo area they are used to transport equipment that will not fit into other planes, he said.

While the planes can fly with as few crew members as four or as many as 20, a typical crew consists of 10 to 12 people - pilots, flight engineers, loadmasters and crew chiefs.

Godfrey said he lives eight miles from the Stewart base and the noise does not bother him.

Geral Long, a noise analyst with Wyle Laboratories in Arlington, Va., has prepared studies on how the noise of C-5s will affect the area.

Long could not say in layman's terms exactly how noisy the planes will be, since people consider noise levels differently. What one person finds offensive, another might view as acceptable, he said.

Long said, if someone stands 500 feet below a C-130 during takeoff, the decibel level would be 97. Standing under a C-5 would increase the decibel level to 120, he said.

That decibel level is about the same as that of an ambulance siren, according to the League for the Hard of Hearing's Web site. Other decibel levels given on the Web site include: telephone ringing, 80; chain saw, 125; stock car race, 130; firecracker, 150; and shotgun blast, 170.

Gain said concerns about noise should be offset by the fact that far fewer flights will be made if C-5s replace C-130s. Right now C-130s take off, land or perform various maneuvers 23 times a day.

If the C-5s arrive, only one takeoff and landing would occur daily, he said. Much of the necessary training will be done in simulators.

C-5s would fly to McGuire Air Force base in New Jersey, the base in Charleston, S.C., or Dover Air Force base in Delaware to pick up supplies before heading to Kuwait, Iraq or wherever the equipment is needed, Gain said.

C-130s, on the other hand, take supplies or Guard members directly from Martinsburg to the front lines, he said.

Several homes near the base might need to be removed under new guidelines established by the Federal Aviation Administration regarding RPZs, or Runway Protection Zones. The FAA has said that no homes can be located in RPZs, Gain said.

Maj. Rodney Neely, environmental engineer with the 167th, said 34 homes are affected now. If C-5s arrive, that number would drop to 10, he said.

Gain said he is not sure whether the homeowners in question have been notified that they might have to move. None of the speakers during the hearing addressed the topic.

Copies of the draft Environmental Impact Statement - a comprehensive study of how C-5s would affect the area - can be found at libraries in the Eastern Panhandle or on-line at www.wvmart.ang.af.mil




If you go:


What: Public hearing regarding plans to bring C-5s to the West Virginia Air National Guard base in Martinsburg

When: Thursday, 5:30 to 9 p.m.

Where: Army National Guard armory, Kelly Island Road

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