On Thursday February 7, 2018 the community of Coronado had the opportunity to see display board and talk to the subject matter experts with regards to the V-22 Ospreys making a new home here at NAS North Island as they replace the C-2As. The Department of the Navy had multiple stations set up with very detailed information obtained through the Environmental Assessment process of this transition, discussing what, if any, impact this aircraft transition would have on Coronado. A Naval Facilities (NAVFAC) spokesman stated, “The noise level and difference is a non-event, but the Navy is interested in making sure they are as open as possible and trying to provide as much information as they can.” Also available for questions were the Commanding Officer and Executive Officers of Naval Base Coronado, as well as pilots that have already been trained and are flying the V-22s.
Commander Mark David has a unique perspective to offer regarding the transition. Not only is he a naval aviator, a V-22 pilot, but he is also as a resident of Coronado. “I like to say I’m not only an Osprey pilot or a C-2 pilot, but I am also a Coronado citizen. I have lived here for three years so I understand some of the concerns that they [citizens of Coronado] have. I just got back from training in the Osprey, five months with the Marines, so I got fully qualified in that aircraft. I can tell you that it is an amazing, safe plane. I loved flying the C-2, but unfortunately it is getting old and all old aircraft need to be retired eventually. So the Navy’s choice to replace it with a new, more modern, much safer aircraft is a great decision. You can see that the environmental team here has done their homework. They have done studies on what the noise levels are and as you can see, its not significantly different than what the current C-2 is here. I know that there are a lot of residents who are concerned about noise, and I was too when I was here, but it should be a net zero difference.”
The Navy currently uses the C-2A Greyhound (COD Carrier On-board Delivery) for logistical transport and personnel movement from shore to ship, and vice versa. This aircraft has been around since the 1950s and is set for retirement in the near future. The replacement aircraft for the C-2 will be the V-22 Osprey. The Navy is proposing to replace the 27 C-2s (stationed aboard both Naval Air Station North Island and Naval Station Norfolk) with 38 V-22s. The capabilities of this new aircraft will allow the Navy to have the logistical support in varied areas. The V-22 is an aircraft that can take off and land vertically, has the ability to carry more weight for a longer range of distance, and land on ships other than carriers. The time frame that the Navy has proposed for this transition to commence will begin this year with renovating facilities and working towards personnel actions. They anticipate the initial delivery of the aircraft in 2020.
The main concerns that have been voiced regarding the Ospreys coming to NAS North Island are traffic (ground and air) increases and an increase in aircraft noise. The Department of the Navy released the Draft Environmental Assessment (EA), addressing those and other issues. Although the hours of operation at NAS North Island are 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, there have been programs put in place to balance the needs of pilot training and being good neighbors to the City of Coronado. Air Installations Compatible Use Zones (AICUZ) focuses on “protecting the health, safety, and welfare of those living near a military airfield while preserve the airfield’s flying mission.” If there are areas that have a 65 or greater DB (as established by the noise assessment), it is recommended limited use of that land, or having a land control measure put in place. The other program noted by the Department of the Navy that NASNI utilizes is called the Noise Abatement Program. This is a program whereby the US Navy collaborates with leaders of the surrounding communities (Coronado and Imperial Beach) in which airfield operations occur. The leaders discuss policies and procedures that would help reduce noise from both NASNI and IB’s Outlying field during hours of operation and training flights.
Noise, as defined by the EA, is “unwanted or annoying sound that interferes with or disrupts normal human activities.” The assessment evaluates three characteristics: intensity, frequency, and duration. Though the process of data collection was interesting and extensive, the details can be located in the EA. The team that was put in place to assess the noise took in multiple factors such as intensity of the sound, the frequency, and duration of those cycles and its affect on the human ears, and its effects on those living near the operational area. The picture below shows current and forecasted noise decibels, as indicated by the data collected during the assessment. There is very little difference in the operational decibel (DB) levels. The red indicates a louder impact at and on the runway during operational hours (also being the area experiencing higher or more frequent levels of specific DB), yellow is moderate levels, and purple indicates areas that will experience lower levels of assessed aircraft noise.
Rick Keys, part of the V-22 Osprey program out of Virginia, came to the open house to address questions regarding the noise assessment. He was asked if there would be a difference in noise levels in our community with the fleet of V-22s coming to NASNI. He stated, “The V-22 is replacing an existing aircraft, the C-2; the difference in noise is very minor from the current condition. There will be a slight increase in operations depending on where the FRS [Fleet Replacement Squadron] is located.” The FRS is a training squadron where the newest aviators selected to fly certain aircraft go to get fully trained in all aspects of piloting the aircraft, as well as the aircrewmen assigned to a specific aircraft. This includes day and nighttime flights. Another key point that Rick made was on the topic of the flight pattern. “One thing to keep in mind is that the V-22 will be flying the same pattern, so we will see the V-22 in the same places as the C-2; not the same pattern as the helicopters.”
Navy Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) provided information regarding their portion of the noise assessment. They work with the FAA and EPA during their portion of the assessment. They take into consideration many factors. While community and human factors are considered, the EA team also assessed what impact the noise from the aircraft would have on the local habitats and wildlife in and around Coronado. It was assessed and decided that there an no foreseeable impacts. One thing that is important to note is that while the Osprey does have the capability to take off and land vertically (and for training purposes they will have to utilize that landing capability at times), it has been decided that the Navy will fly the V-22 more like an aircraft and not a helicopter, further reducing noise levels.
Rick Keys talked about the personnel requirements and the minimal impact that this would have on the local traffic. “The most, I believe, will be a 1% increase in the daily traffic; about 450 people.” There are two alternatives that the Navy is proposing: whether the V-22 FRS would be here in Coronado or in Norfolk, Virginia – to date that is still being determined. These have been termed Action Alternatives. Alternative one would be the Navy would replace the current C-2 Squadron, the VRC-30 Providers, with facilities and functions of a new V-22 squadron. Alternative two would be similar to the first but the training squadron would be in Norfolk.
The community of Coronado has an opportunity to voice any concerns, make comments, or ask questions. NAVFAC, and the Department of the Navy stand ready for your input. The public comment period will conclude February 26, 2018. All comments will be considered when preparing the Final EA. The next step in the process is to finalize the Environmental Assessment statement, then in the summer of 2018, the Navy will announce its findings. You may submit your comments online at Fleet Forces Command clicking on the blue “submit comment” box or via mail to:
Naval Facilities Engineering Command Atlantic Forces
Attn: Navy V-22 EA Project Manager (code EV21JB)
6506 Hampton Boulevard
Norfolk, VA 23508
Please note that all comments must be postmarked by February 26th, in order to be considered.