Eielson Air Force Base officials will host a town hall meeting tonight in North Pole to talk about a recently issued document that offers guidelines for land uses around the base that would be compatible with the F-35 aircraft that'll begin arriving at the base beginning next year.
Air Force officials will be available at the meeting to explain the 2018 Air Installations Compatible Use Zones, or AICUZ study, and to answer questions from members of the public.
“It provides guidelines for development for the future with our neighbors,” says Air Force AICUZ Program Manager Fred Pierson, who will be at tonight's meeting.
Pierson says the new document updates previous AICUZ studies conducted for Eielson, before the Pentagon decided to station two squadrons of F-35s there. The new study is based on the different characteristics of F-35s, which include a louder takeoff than the F-16s at Eielson, under many conditions.
“It’s a very powerful engine,” he said. “... In many modes, it is louder than the F-16.”
Eielson spokesman Lt. Kitsana Duonglomchan says noise apparently wasn’t much of a problem last winter when the Air Force sent several F-35s here for testing.
“I do think it’s important to note that we did have seven F-35s here doing cold-weather testing and icy-runway testing for about six months, from 2017 into 2018,” Duonglomchan said. “And during that time, the base received zero noise complaints on the F-35.”
Pierson says the new AICUZ study will include analysis of where the noise is loudest around Eielson, including nearby areas under flight patterns that the base’s pilots use. He says the study also will include recommendations on how local-government officials could take that noise into consideration when planning development around the base.
“We always examine our flight tracks, our procedures and everything else,” he said, “to not only ensure that they are safe but that they don’t impact the mission and that we’re not transferring noise from one community to another.”
A recent study by the Fairbanks North Star Borough says AICUZ studies also help protect military airfields from encroachment around the installation by development that’s incompatible with the base’s mission. They also include recommendations on land uses for areas that could be exposed to the risk of aircraft accidents. Pierson says so far that’s not a problem.
“There’s very little in the way of incompatible developments anywhere near the base,” Pierson said.
He says the AICUZ study is intended to help local leaders keep that concern in mind when considering zoning and other land-use measures.
“As the community develops,” he said, “we want to work with them, so that we can achieve compatible development – not only to protect our mission, but (also) the health, safety and welfare of our neighbors.”
Tonight’s meeting at North Pole High School runs from 4 to 7 p.m.