Navy Seeks Input on Basing the Jets near Jacksonville

The Navy will hold a public meeting today to seek input from Jacksonville-area residents about basing its next generation of submarine-hunting aircraft at Jacksonville Naval Air Station.

The propeller-driven P-3C Orion airplane seen flying around Jacksonville for decades is scheduled to be replaced with the P-8 Poseidon, a military version of the Boeing 737, in about five years.

Over the coming months, the Navy plans to conduct an environmental study on basing the planes in Jacksonville. Today's meeting will be an open house where experts will answer questions about the new plane and gather input from the community, said Ted Brown, spokesman for the Navy's Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk, Va.

The meeting will be 5 to 8 p.m. at the Orange Park Holiday Inn, 150 Park Ave.

The Navy is asking the public to submit written comments about how basing the planes in Jacksonville would affect the environment, the local economy and residents living near the base, Brown said.

The environmental study will also compare the noise difference between the two planes, Brown said.

Russ Stalvey, an aircraft noise expert for the Better Westside Project during its fight to keep 200 Navy fighter jets from returning to Cecil Field, said the P-3's turboprop engines are quieter than the 737's jet engines. But Stalvey said he doesn't think the Poseidon's noise at 80 decibels will become an issue.

The 737 is about 30 to 40 decibels lower than the Navy's F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets, he said. However, it isn't solely the noise of one aircraft that becomes a problem with residents around a base but the frequency of takeoffs and landings and the number of flights per hour, Stalvey said.

The environmental study will consider nine basing options that include stationing five or six squadrons in Jacksonville. Each squadron would have six aircraft, Brown said. Now, there are five P-3 squadrons at the air station with about 10 aircraft in each squadron.

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