Beaufort neighbors petition to displace the ‘sound of freedom’

Capt. Clay Groover shows the runway currently closed for resurfacing.

Is it noise pollution, or the sound of freedom? In Beaufort, it depends on who you’re asking. As the sounds of the F-35B jets at the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort (MCAS) become more frequent to certain areas of greater Beaufort, some neighbors are requesting an alternate landing field be installed. The idea is for a new landing field to take some of the noise away from areas like downtown Beaufort and residential spots on Lady’s Island and Grays Hill.

The MCAS has flown the F-35Bs for pilot training for nearly two years; however, recent construction and resurfacing of one the runways has caused increased noise over parts of Beaufort, with the only open runway being that which places the aircraft over those populated areas.

Beaufort City Council has passed a resolution for the federal government to install an alternate landing field.

“It’s all geared toward mission with reference to the air station, so it has to be obviously something they see as being an important element to the training squadron at the air station,” Mayor Pro-Tem Mike McFee says.

McFee has fielded several complaints over the recent noise. On Tuesday, the petition came to him through email.

“Actually, my home is over the short runway, so I have noted additional activity, but of course I also grew up here and I’ve known activity over at the air station all my life,” McFee says.

In the petition sent from the MCAS Neighbors group at mcasneighbors.org, it requests the new landing field, but also that the MCAS modify its flight patterns, to direct air traffic away from certain neighbors. Mcfee isn’t sure he’ll sign, but says he stands behind the resolution council passed for new landing fields.

Meanwhile, Mayor Billy Keyserling has voiced support for such a petition. In a newsletter, he says he does still embrace the jets operating in Beaufort, but thinks it best to begin the process for installing an alternate landing field.

The air station says the added noise is happening unintentionally, and should lessen once the runway under construction is finished being resurfaced.

“It’s not that we’re flying over residential areas on purpose or anything like that, it’s just that we’re flying the approach and departure out on runway 1432 more often,” Capt. Clay Groover says.

“So, as far as an alternate landing field, outlying landing field, I can’t can really speculate as far as what that’s going to look like here as far as jet noise is concerned. What I can say is that here at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, the runways that we have allow us to accomplish the mission that our pilots and our air crew have,” he says.

The group heading-up the petition meets on Wednesday night to discuss progress. So far, they says they’ve been in touch with Congressman Mark Sanford and state Senator Tom Davis, hoping for 1,000 signatures at least, in order to gain more attention.

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