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JBLM copters start flying higher in response to complaints

Post by Christian Hill / The News Tribune on Aug. 3, 2012 at 12:43 pm with 30 Comments »
August 3, 2012 12:43 pm

Aviators at Joint Base Lewis-McChord using newly established air routes began flying their helicopters higher over populated areas of Thurston County starting today to cut down on noise that has generated dozens of complaints from residents, a base spokesman said.

Col. Thomas Brittain, Lewis-McChord’s garrison commander, made the decision Tuesday following a review stemming from the complaints, base spokesman Joe Piek said. The altitude change took effect Friday morning after notice went out to the aviators.

“That should make a big difference in the noise,” Piek said.

Base officials have said the large amount of air traffic should taper off later this month after the about 500 aviators assigned to Lewis-McChord units finishing flying the route both day and night to get familiar with it.

Officials established the new air routes to ensure the growing number of helicopters stationed at Lewis-McChord can fly to and from training areas located on the base in an orderly and safe fashion. It’s the first time helicopters have flown off base to reach the training areas. The number of helicopters at Lewis-McChord has notably increased with the arrival of a new combat aviation brigade.

But residents living under the new routes say the helicopters have flown too low, too often and too late, interrupting sleep and jarring nerves. Last week, the base reported more than 50 individuals have filed noise complaints since aviators began flying the new air routes in the first week of July and more have come in since then. The concerns prompted officials to review the air routes, and Piek acknowledged the base should have done a better job of informing residents about the change.

There are two new one-way routes. The first counter-clockwise “blue” route passes over Yelm and Lake St. Clair, while the second clockwise “red” path goes out farther and directs helicopters over a group of lakes in and near Lacey and close to the city of Rainier before turning them north. Aviators are told to fly no lower than 1,000 feet on the “red route” and no lower than 1,300 on the “blue” route. Air traffic controllers track the altitude, and a base official has said there have been no violations.

Brittain ordered that aviators fly 500 feet higher on the north-south leg of both routes that pass over populated areas outside Lacey. As a result, aviators will fly no lower than 1,500 feet and 1,800 feet, respectively, on the legs of the red and blue routes.

Ronald Brown, who lives under the “red” route northeast of Long Lake near Lacey, said Thurday he’s certain the helicopters have been flying lower than 1,000 feet despite the base’s assurances they’re holding to that minimum altitude. He’s pessimistic the noise that has kept him awake at night and frightened his two cats will abate with the adjustment.

“I don’t think there’s going to be any noticeable impact,” he said.

I’d be interested in hearing from affected residents about their thoughts on this. You can contact me at 253-274-7390 or by e-mail at christian.hill@thenewstribune.com.

Follow me on Twitter @TNTchill

Leave a comment Comments → 30
  1. surveyor1 says:

    Oh god. Your cats were frightened? We truely are a society of whiners.

  2. stopcomplainin says:

    Hopefully the altitude adjustments pacify the attitudes that need adjustment. Hey complainers, those helicopters are training to ensure your freedom. Get the picture, stop complaining or move.

  3. Tracianne says:

    And most likely the base was long here before all the whiners moved in. If you don’t like the noise move out of state. Just like all the people who complain about bears and such but yet the encroach upon their habitat.

    Can we please get back to reality folks and take responsibility for your own freakin actions.

  4. tamintom says:

    Freedom does come with a price.

  5. nylandce says:

    You can fly over my house as low as you want, day or night–sound of freedom!

  6. Whatever1214 says:

    Well, everything would, like, be sooo much quieter if they could, like, stop that whirly thingy on top of those machines from going around and around when they are, like, flying by my house. That would be like so totally awesome and I could, like, hear Jerry Springer and listen to reruns of Oprah again.

  7. assinine says:

    It will be interesting what altitude they will fly at when the winter weather returns. People want to live free without paying for it.

  8. Murigen says:

    If you move into an area that is a flight path then yes you should put up with it. I used to live at the end of Fairchild’s runway, a bit noisy but oh well. But if you live in an area that is not part of a flight path and then the flight path is moved so that it’s now over your home you have every right to complain. I lived down in Battleground and one day had my windows rattling. When I went out side I saw two copters low enough to make my fir trees blow around. Two of (then) Ft Lewis copters figured they’d get away with something. Didn’t figure someone in that area would know who to call to complain. They didn’t pull that stunt again. So I don’t doubt that at least some of the copters were too low when flying the new flight path.

  9. WonTonsInMySoup says:

    Sound of freedom? More like the sound of debt.

  10. the3rdpigshouse says:

    One day whining leftist anti-Americans will be expunged from society – love the sound of working Americans defending our nation!!!

    Beats the H*ll out of adding to our nations unemployment rolls!!

  11. rubioloco says:

    Strange how those complaining about this change will be the first to complain about urban drones, black helicopters and community surveilence even though these are also military training/preparedness. They complain about the traffic on I-5 near JBLM though these are just our warriors/support staff heding to work.

    Interesting how the chinooks on routine return approach to JBLM from Yakima continue to cover residential areas at 200 feet yet AirLift doesnt drop below safe elevations until they are over the LZ. There is NO training purpose for the chinooks tree top altitude. In fact at this altitude they could be brought down by rifle fire so would never use this approach in an active fire zone

    Those that do not live in the listed areas have no dog in this hunt. A chinook at 200 feet doesnt ‘rattle the windows and scare the cat’. It knocks pictures off the wall, sets off alarm systems and is an unnessessary practice that wakes children and families. That level of ignorance establishes that the repsponder lives far from these activities and has little to know reference from which to chime in on this policy change.

    A higher flight pattern over residential areas will have absolutely no impact on the miliary readiness of the troops at JBLM. We support the military in every way but this request was justified

  12. ItalianSpring says:

    What a bunch of pu$$y whiners.

  13. Who was there first?

  14. rubioloco says:

    jnw…. guess you are giving up your home and property to the tribe based on your analogy. If you knew the area, you would know that many of the residents have owned property for numerous generations which predate the helicopters.

    But wouldnt matter to you as you will be moving soon as the tribe will be moving back in.

    Thank you for making such an intelligent comment.

  15. All these folks talking about “whiners” and loving “the sound of freedom” are probably the same one putting up “STOP taking our property” signs all over Thurston county. Why is it evil for civilian elected government to make decisions which affect your property values and quality of life, but it’s perfectly fine for unelected military bureaucrats to do exactly the same thing? At least local government agencies have to get public comment and participation BEFORE they implement major policy changes which affect property values and pulic health. And you can always vote the bums out if enough citizens dont like it. In this case JBLM officials just made the decision to open the air corridor and started using it. No local consultation, no public comment period, not even advance notification. While I applaud their decision to mitigate noise but I question how much affect a few hundred feet will have.

  16. NotPoliticallyCorrect says:

    This could be a good thing with the helicopters flying higher and or changing their routes. Now the whiners can hear us talking about and or laughing at them even better.

  17. cadana1961 says:

    Dang it!! I LOVE it when the helicopters, C-17s, etc., fly their routes over my house!! It doesn’t matter the time of day, or day of the week!!! Jet Noise is a thing of beauty!!! It is a constant reminder that our service personnel are striving to perfect their skills for future operations!! Tha, my friend, is the sound of freedom at work!!! If you are one who thinks it’s annoying, may I suggest, moving far away … I, for one, am staying right here!!! Keep flying!!!

  18. The sound of freedom? That oft repeated comment on this site is the sound of the stupid. As for the sound of the planes and other war machines? That is the huge flushing sound of all our national treasure being looted by the corporate lobby while the predictably nationalistic American fools clap and cheer.

  19. Yikes! The natives are certainly restless. Or is it that the Seattle real estate price refugees are restless?

    One or two isolated instances are probably nothing to complain about but a routine of low-level flying is. In any event, it’s amazing what qualifies as something to complain about. Totally unpredictable. One day it’s low flying helicopters, the next day it’s parking meters downtown.

    Such total randomness is what makes life interesting around here.

  20. I wonder if we can pay for freedom with pennies?

  21. PerryMason22 says:

    Whiners and complainers get real. Move your pansy, whining butts to somewhere else if your poor ears are too sensitive. Fort Lewis Pilots, I invite you to fly as low and loud as you want over the Marvin Rd, Meridian, South Bay area, Lacey areas. We love that sound of Freedom!

  22. What about news helicopters?
    i get woke up by them almost every morning by them flying over I5
    for a dam traffic report but our armed forces have to fly higher?

  23. ArchieA says:

    Too me, that’s Freedom singing in my ears! You Whiners & Snivelers wouldn’t have a lick if it were for those dedicated “Volunteers” whom keep us free day and night, anywhere and everywhere in the world.

    WELL FREEDOM COMES WITH A PRICE and I guess you haven’t the backbone to fight it, just want to enjoy the benefits “Day & Night” I must assume you’d be the first to fly the coop, if war ever broke out in our “Free Nation”! May God Bless each & ever one of soldiers, and protect were ever they are. Ooh Ra!

  24. Murigen says:

    RIDGE, no I saw two military helicopters flying below minimums. I thought they were from Portland. Called there first and found out they were from Ft Lewis and had done this many times before. Flying far away from their base, flying too low, pulling crap, and letting the local Guard and Reserve folks take the blame. So I pulled out my phone numbers for Ft Lewis and called their flight line. Informed them of what was going on and that if I ever saw helicopters from Ft Lewis flying below minimums again I would be calling again, and the next call would be higher up the food chain. Helps if you work with a General when you’re talking to a Captain. And guess what, didn’t happen again while I was still living down there.

    So now here we have flight paths changing to go over new areas. There is no reason the helicopters have to fly low enough to cause any problems. Will they be perfectly quiet, no. But they shouldn’t cause the kind of disruption described in the article.

  25. RidingintheRain says:

    I agree with rubioloco. While I support the military and I often speak of the “sound of freedom” when aircraft fly overhead. I have experienced low-flying chinooks at 2am hovering over the tree-tops. This jolts everyone out of bed. My husband who sleeps through everything raced out to the porch to see what was going on. At this point it is no longer training for freedom but harassment.

  26. sierradog says:

    I noticed a couple of “Chinooks” flying low over my house in East King County. I love seeing them. The choppers that BPA uses to check the high power transmission lines fly much lower and make twice as much noise. I grew up in Lakewood and summer wasn’t complete without the sounds of a C141, F-102 and artillery thumps. It really is the sound of Freedom!!!!

  27. Chippert says:

    Can you really tell that a chopper is flying another 500 feet higher from the ground without radar. No you can’t. So how is this resident “certain” that they were lower. While I agree that JBLM should do anything they can to be good neighbors as long as it does not interfere with their mission (and it sounds like this is exactly what they are doing), I have lived in the pattern for McChord for over 30 years. The C-17s that now fly and the much more noisy C-141’s before that did take some getting used to. Sometimes a conversation had to pause for a minute or two until they passed. But the base was there long before I was, and the purpose that the base serves is much, much more important than the occasional imposition. Same goes for the firing of the heavy weapons that sometimes bothers my dogs and rattles my windows, and the cavitation noise from the choppers.

    If you cannot take the noise, there are abatement things you can do for your house. At the very least (and most inexpensive), there are earplugs you can wear. In short, learn to live with it and be thankful that our military is well trained and ready.

    And, yes, I am a “liberal”

  28. HaleRevere says:

    My fellow freedom-lovers said it all. I’ll leave a light on in the window for the Apache pilots and set up an inverted-Y in my back yard if they want to drop in…..any time, day or night. Peace through Strength and Security!!!!!!

  29. Mahakala says:

    So you move next to a military base and then complain about the noise. What a bunch is whining crybabies. That sound you hear is the sound of FREEDOM!

  30. bobbysangelwife says:

    The question was posed: who was here first. Seriously? READ some history folks….originally it was the Natives, then the settlers.
    Here’s where it gets interesting so pay attention to the following words: the settlers DONATED their lands to the GOVERNMENT so that we would have a military post out here in the ‘Wild West’ to protect them from critters and Natives.

    So it was the PEOPLE of the area that WANTED the post to be here in the first place. Aside from the Natives, we’re here first. :)
    Deal with it. Move on. Find another hobby. Get a life.

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