By David Charns
BURLINGTON, Vt. —Opponents of basing the F-35 fighter jet in South Burlington said the discussion should focus more on the inflating cost of the program.
Hundreds of people turned out for what organizers called a citizens’ hearing at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Burlington Thursday night.
The hearing comes as the Pentagon is expected to release the final draft of its environmental impact statement. The document will lay out how the jet will impact people living around the airport.
According to the latest draft of EIS, nearly 2,000 homes in Winooski could be deemed uninhabitable because of noise produced by the new planes.
According to the dEIS, 1,578 homes already lie within the 65 DNL contour. That number could grow to as high as 2,944 under an Air Force scenario, the document said.
Opponents estimate nearly 7,000 people will be affected by the F-35’s noise. They add even though the military has said flight time would be around six minutes a day, that’s too much.
They focused Thursday on the fighter jet program’s reported $400 billion price tag, saying members of the military will see cuts to pay and benefits because of the cost.
Among the speakers was Pierre Sprey, a co-designer of the F-16. The F-16 is the jet currently flown by the Vermont Air National Guard and the program that is being phased out for the F-35.
“You can always find honest, young guys in the defense department who’d rather have something that works than something that doesn’t,” Sprey said. “When you look at the things that fail on this airplane, you realize this airplane was designed by newbies. I mean classic things that people have known to do since the 1930s, like the tail hook and the fuel dump. They don’t work on this airplane.”
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., an F-35 supporter along with his Washington counterparts from Vermont, said the plane is an honor for the guard.