Local Politics

Navy to look west for landing field

Posted January 27, 2011 5:36 p.m. EST
Updated January 27, 2011 6:15 p.m. EST

— The U.S. Navy announced Thursday that it has halted plans to build a landing field in eastern North Carolina for fighter jets and will look to the West Coast for a site.

Lt. Paul Macapagal, a Navy spokesman, said the idea of an Outlying Landing Field (OLF) on the East Coast is off the table until at least 2014.

"The Navy is suspending release of and stopping work on the Outlying Landing Field Draft Environmental Impact Statement until the East Coast Navy Joint Strike Fighter basing and training requirements are better defined," he said.

North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue, legislative leaders, environmental groups and residents of Camden, Currituck, Hertford and Gates counties had raised concerns that the OLF would be noisy and disruptive.

A 2005 land-use study showed the Navy encountering increasingly crowded conditions for flight operations in and around Virginia Beach, Va., and recommended that the Navy “pursue development of an additional outlying landing field in North Carolina” to alleviate the impact of growth in southeastern Virginia.

North Carolina Senators Richard Burr and Kay Hagan have both spoken out against the plan as well.

On Thursday, Hagan responded positively to the news.

"I am thrilled that the Navy is suspending and stopping work on the Outlying Landing Field Draft Environmental Impact Statement," she said in a statement.

"We do not want an OLF in northeastern North Carolina. The people I meet with are absolutely outraged at the prospect of an OLF in their backyards, and I have been working to prevent it. I will continue to make the case in Congress that the Navy must not build an OLF in northeastern North Carolina."

Local leaders chimed in with a chorus of compliments.

“The Navy made the right decision,” said Currituck County Commissioner Vance Aydlett Jr.

“From grassroots citizen groups to school children, our community bonded together to protect our region’s quality of life,” said Sandra Duckwall, chairwoman of the Camden County Board of Commissioners.

The Navy will turn its attention to possible landing fields in Imperial or Kings County, Calif., and has scheduled public hearings in those locations next month.

According to the Navy, an east coast location could come under consideration again no sooner than 2014.