Local News

Fighter Jets Above Goldsboro Represent Combination Of Danger, Money

Posted June 5, 2003 11:05 a.m. EDT

— Wednesday's crash of a fighter jet near the Four Oaks community, about 25 miles from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, raised at least one question for nearby residents:

How safe are the people who live near where pilots train?

Gov. Easley's office is looking into ways to keep that concern from becoming a bigger problem. As a result, the very presence of military bases and the money they bring may be at stake.

If a jet has to go down, Air Force officials would prefer it happen as it did Wednesday, with the crew safely ejected and the impact zone far from homes and people.

But a crash seems more likely to happen near places like Goldsboro -- home of the Seymour Johnson base, Where F-15E Strike Eagles take off and train every day.

"We've got to allow them to train," Goldsboro mayor Al King said. "And in order to allow them to train, we can't encroach on their space."

King is on Easley's Committee for Military Affairs. The committee wants local governments to create buffer zones around bases and the rural corridors planes fly in.

The buffer zones would limit development. With a new round of base closings coming in two years, state leaders want to protect those that are here.

A town like Goldboro can't afford to lose the $1 million a day the base pumps into its economy.

"If you remove that from our community, we've got problems," King said.

The committee thinks prospective home buyers should be fully informed of the noise and safety risks in the buffer zones.

Many Goldsboro realtors already share that kind of information, knowing that people would want to know.

Air Force officials say one of their greatest needs for training is for pilots to fly at low altitudes, which better simulates battle conditions. But it also creates more noise and risk in the rural areas in which they fly.

Some people may not like the risk or the noise. Others say it's the sound of freedom and money.

All the while, America's best fighter jets continue to fly overhead.