So, Boise is still wrestling with the issue of whether the U.S. Air Force should put F-35 jets at Gowen Field on the South side of the Boise Airport. Good luck with that.
We can speak to the F-35 issue with some personal experience since we live about 10 miles in a straight line from Luke Air Force Base outside of Phoenix. Luke is the training site for nearly every nation that we’ve sold F-35's to. Pilots come here from all over the world to learn how to handle what I’ve been told is one tough aircraft to fly. Currently, Luke has about 100 F-35's with a full compliment of about 180 due in coming months. Imagine those numbers at Gowen Field. Not hardly.
Our home is nearly under the downwind landing approach to Luke on the Northeast as are thousands of others. So, noise levels aren’t nearly what they are on the takeoff side which is to the Southwest. Most of the time. Occasionally, when prevailing winds shift, we get a taste of takeoffs. That’s when the windows rattle. Not often. Just once-in-a-while.
Boise’s F-35 problem is largely one of its own making. With some terrible assistance from Ada County.
The first airport in Boise was on Boise State University campus. Old dirt strip where Varney Airlines started, grandfather of United Airlines, we’re told. When growth forced re-locating, the plateau on the edge of the desert above town was chosen. So far, so good. And it worked as planned for a long, long time.
But, not now. And that’s where the failures of the City of Boise and Ada County come into play.
As Boise and the county grew, each allowed residential and commercial growth at both ends of the runways, except for the required minimal space for aircraft operation patterns required by the FAA. Soon came cries from folks bitching about aircraft noise. What the Hell did they expect? As subdivisions grew so, too, did the airport with demands brought on by that same growth. Didn’t anyone in local government see what was coming?
Because of increased civilian/military demands, airport facilities expanded. As a former pilot who flew out of there, considering safety and growth values, I’d argue not much more activity can be crammed into that space. Something’s gotta give.
In the Phoenix metro area, with huge residential and commercial growth around the Luke AFB area, government got it right. When we bought our house two years ago, we - and thousands others in about a 20-mile-square area - signed a legal closing document that told us about Luke, expected noise and other conditions of an active flight area. A very active flight area. No future bitching!
Given prevailing winds and angle of the runways at Luke, we really don’t have a problem. But, as you drive past the other end of the runways - to the Southwest - you see no subdivisions for miles. Some industrial and farming allowed. But, no homes.
The dual jet F-35 uses afterburners on takeoff. That about triples normal noise. Once aloft, afterburners are shut down. But, if you’re under planes at takeoff, it’s a bitch. I’d hate to live Northwest of Gowen for 10 miles. Add to that, more often than not, there are multiple takeoffs at the same time. F-35's usually fly in pairs or groups of four.
F-35's should operate out of Mt. Home AFB, some 40 miles South and West. Not Gowen. But, Boise/Ada County officials would come unglued because of expected short-term economic loss.
So, you’ve got the physics of multiple jet aircraft operations in an area with thousands of residents under the flight path or you’ve got some sizeable fiscal loss of those same operations.
From outside, looking in, Mt. Home is the place for the F-35's. Period. That aircraft is going to be around for a long, long time. Just as B-52 bombers will likely fly for 100 years with occasional engineering updates, the F-35 will last for many years with the same sort of re-engineering. It’s a multi-function plane, tailored for USAF, Navy and Marine use. Some fly normally. Others jump straight up. You’re really talking about an aircraft platform with several configurations. Much cheaper to update than to go to a whole new aircraft.
Length of service of the F-35 is not often discussed. It should be. Putting F-35's at Gowen is not a short-term proposition. Once the base is reconfigured for them, they’ll be there a long time.
Future military flight operations should be at Mt. Home where the area is set aside for such. In time, it’s likely the National Guard at Gowen will expand and need more room.
Bringing the F-35 to Idaho should be decided on the basis of needs of the military and safe aircraft operations, not the local economic situation. Put ‘em where they belong. Out there.
Oh, and one more thing. Last week near Tucson, an A-10 Warthog - like those at Gowen - accidentally fired a missile. Accidental, yes. But that happens. No one hurt. But, what if it has been off the Northwest end of Gowen Field. Oh, say near Five Mile Road and Amity. Just sayin’.