Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.
A photograph that recently caught my attention shows then-Governor Shumlin at Eglin Air Force base, where he and Mayor Miro Weinberger listened to the sound of F-35s taking off.
In the picture, Governor Shumlin looks attentive and focused. But he’s protecting his ears with state of the art, noise attenuating or noise cancelling headphones made by the David Clark company, which specializes in high quality headphones for airplane pilots.
Governor Shumlin visited this Florida Air Force base with Mayor Weinberger in order to see the F-35s in action and to decide if the F-35s should be based at Burlington Airport. After the trip, Governor Shumlin reported that “listening to this has been a real eye opener.” He continued by stating that “It’s a different sound, but it’s surprising how quiet the F-35 is.”
Mayor Weinberger also returned to work in support of bringing the F-35s to Vermont. But in contrast to Governor Shumlin’s pronouncement, the Air Force itself, in its environmental impact statement, admitted that the F-35s would be perceived by the human ear as nearly four times louder than the F-16s at 1,000 feet in the air. The sound, the Air Force admitted, will penetrate into homes, places of worship, hospitals, schools and child care facilities in certain areas of Chittenden County.
As Mayor Weinberger reconsiders his position on the F-35s, I’d like to remind him of a test that many of us use who’re involved in building affordable housing. If we build affordable housing for seniors, we always ask: would we be comfortable if our mother lived here? In similar fashion, with affordable family housing, we always ask: would I be comfortable living here with my family?
There are arguments both for and against basing the F-35s at Burlington Airport. But for me, it comes down to the simple question of whether Mayor Weinberger - or Senator Leahy, Vermont’s strongest advocate for bringing the F-35s to Vermont - would be willing to live in the so-called noise zone where the Air Force plans almost six thousand flights each year - or sixteen flights a day.
If they wouldn’t be willing to have their children and grandchildren exposed to these noise levels in their homes and daily lives, it’s fair to ask why they’d be willing to allow it to happen to other peoples’ children.