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Idaho Air Guard leaders meet with homeowners to discuss F-35

BOISE, Idaho --
More than 60 concerned homeowners who live near the Boise Airport discussed the potential basing of the F-35 in Boise with Idaho Air National Guard leaders, as well as airport and city officials April 5.

The town-hall style presentation that was followed by a question-and-answer session was held in conjunction with a regularly scheduled homeowners' association meeting for the Hillcrest neighborhood at Owyhee Elementary School west of Vista Ave.

Col. Brad Richy, vice commander of the 124th Fighter Wing based at Gowen Field just south of the airport said this meeting was the first of what will be many public forums for homeowners in potentially affected neighborhoods to raise concerns, ask questions and have questions answered relating to the future of the F-35 at Gowen Field.

"The Idaho Air National Guard is a community-based organization. We live here, work here and raise families here," Col. Richy Said.

He was joined by Idaho National Guard Assistant Adjutant General, Air, Brig. Gen. Bill Shawver, who also spoke at the event to provide information on the current status of the F-35 selection process and answer questions relating to noise concerns, public environmental policy and how the selection process is expected to play out.

"We appreciate the Hillcrest neighborhood homeowners' association inviting us to come and provide information and answer questions," General Shawver said.

Increased noise from the F-35 remains the primary concern for residents of the neighborhoods near Gowen Field. While nearby residents have enjoyed the relative quiet of the A-10 and its Turbofan engines since 1996, thoughts of the F-35 in the future have some concerned that increased noise will lead to a decrease in quality of life for nearby homeowners.

One thing is clear: the F-35 will definitely be louder than the A-10 is. However, in spite of references to studies that have shown high noise levels from the F-35 engines by those opposed to F-35 basing near urban areas, no one knows exactly how loud it will be. According to Colonel Richy, the testing data currently available refers to a Navy variant of the F-35 that is heavier than the Air Force version with a different flap setting than would be used for planes landing at Gowen Field. The reduced weight of the Air Force variant combined with its ability to land using a minimal power setting will likely mean reduced noise from those that have been tested in the past.

"The engine noise from F-35 aircraft that are flown in a real-world training or operational environment will have a different -- and likely lower -- noise level than those aircraft that were used in performance testing," Colonel Richy said.

During his presentation to homeowners, Colonel Richy cited many of the reasons why bringing the F-35 to Boise will benefit the Idaho Air National Guard and the citizens of Boise, including securing the Air National Guard mission for the next 40 years and minimizing or eliminating potential future Base Realignment and Closure actions.

While many in attendance voiced concerns about the potential future F-35 basing at Gowen Field, some attended the meeting to show support for the mission coming to Boise.

"When I hear the planes from Gowen flying overhead, I run out of my house and look up to see what it is. I love having you guys here," one homeowner said.

"Having the opportunity to voice your concerns in a forum like this is what makes this such a great Republic," General Shawver said to the homeowners.

Both he and Colonel Richy plan to give residents from other potentially affected neighborhoods the same opportunity to exchange ideas in the future. However, no meetings are scheduled at this time.