Saturday, April 3, 2010

County Airport on Site List For Navy Practice

The Accomack County Airport is on the list as a possible practice landing site for the Navy. According to an article in Saturdays Virginian Pilot, the Accomack County Airport is among eight sites in Virginia that qualify for use as practice landing sites for Navy turboprop aircraft. The turboprops include the E-2 Hawkeye AWACS radar plane and the C-2 Greyhound. The prop driven aircraft are significantly quieter than the jet fighter aircraft that have caused a lot of controversy in Virginia Beach. The planes would use the strip for field-carrier landing practice.

According to the article, the Navy is considering several sites to relieve the problem of too many aircraft scheduled for landing practice at the same airstrip. The Navy has long sought to build an outlying landing field but has run into considerable local opposition at the sites being considered. Fentress Field in Chesapeake has gotten so busy serving fighter jets that Norfolks turboprop training squadron has to travel as far as Florida to conduct landing practice five or six times a year.

In addition to the Accomack County Airport, the Navy is also considering the Hanover County Municipal Airport in Ashland, Richmond International Airport, Chesterfield County Airport, Emporia Municipal Airport, Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport, Norfolk International Airport and Chesapeake Regional Airport.

Some Accomack County officials contacted for the article showed interest in the proposition. Atlantic District Supervisor Ron Wolff told the Pilot that the airport had to cut back on operations due to budget issues. He said I, personally, as a member of the board, would certainly hope the county would entertain the idea of this for the Navy.

County Administrator Steve Miner said he looks forward to hearing more about the Navys requirements. It would be a benefit to the community as well as the navy.
In order to be considered, the airfield must have a runway thats at least 5000 ft. long and 100 ft. wide and be able to support a 25,000 lb. single gear weight. The project would be a win-win for the Navy as well as cash strapped communities eager to attract federal dollars. Accomack County would certainly fit that description.

Originally the Accomack County Airport was built by the Navy in World War II as a training site and was later turned over to the County when it became a surplus property. According to the article Ted Brown , a spokesman for the Navys Fleet Forces Command said it isnt an all or nothing game. Brown said multiple airfields could negotiate contracts with the Navy. The Navy currently has contracts to use two outlying airfields in Alabama for planes to practice from Whiting Field in Florida.

Even though the project is in its earliest planning stages, it couldnt come at a better time . Accomack County Supervisors who are struggling in the face of lost state funding to balance the County budget, have announced layoffs among county employees. The Accomack County School Board is also is facing the daunting task of operating the school system after funding cuts. It isnt known as of now how much the County could expect to get from renting the field to the Navy for use as a practice landing site or if the revenue would significantly affect current projections.

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