Navy OLF: The Regional View

The U.S. Navy is studying five sites for an additional outlying landing field to support field carrier landing practice training for pilots at Oceana naval air station and Norfolk naval station. This is of the utmost importance to Hampton roads and neighboring communities, the commonwealth, the navy and the country.

Landing an airplane aboard an aircraft carrier, particularly at night, is widely recognized as one of the most difficult tasks in the world, making it critical that naval aviators have access to landing strips that can provide practice for day and night carrier landings under safe conditions before actual operations occur.

While the navy has stated naval auxiliary landing field Fentress in Chesapeake will continue to operate, it has also identified the need for an additional facility to provide training that more closely replicates landing an aircraft on a carrier at sea.

To that end, the navy, working with the commonwealth and North Carolina, has identified five sites, three in southeastern Virginia, for further study.

Citizens in the counties identified as potential OLF sites have expressed concern over noise, loss of private property and reduced tax revenues as a result of land being owned by the federal government. Their local elected officials have responded by passing resolutions opposing an OLF. But any decision about the impact of an OLF is premature.

The navy has a really shown a willingness to identify additional benefits an OLF could bring to a community. This could include sharing airfield services such as fire and rescue, different land-use options that would allow for maximum agricultural use and timber harvesting, encouraging compatible economic development that would further support the local tax base and keep property on the tax rolls and con’ currently create jobs and other benefits for the area. Some have suggested proposals such as a regional distribution center or a bio-fuel research and development center.

Working together, we believe that political, business and community leaders can find an approach that benefits everyone.

All Virginians have a vested interest in this happening. Without a new OLF, NAS Oceana and the tactical aircraft squadrons home-based there become vulnerable to any future base realignment and closure action.

Such vulnerability places other related assets at risk with the potential loss of thousands- perhaps tens of thousands of jobs that are directly or indirectly supported by navy payrolls, and would pull billions of dollars out of Virginia’s economy and tax base.

The concerns of people who live near one of the potential OLF sites should be heard.

However, it is equally important that the interests of people whose livelihoods are dependent upon the navy be heard, too.

So offer your ideas and suggestions.

The OLF provides an opportunity to help the navy and our communities.

Mayor Paul D. Fraim, Norfolk

Mayor Joe D. Frank, Newport News

Mayor Ross A. Kearney II, Hampton

Mayor Meyera E. Oberndorf, Virginia Beach

Editor’s note: the mayors form the executive committee of the Hampton Roads Military and Federal Facilities Alliance.

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