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Published: Monday, March 24, 2008, 12:01 a.m.

Whidbey may land new jets for base

The Navy plans a public meeting to gather comments on the new squadrons.

OAK HARBOR -- Cold War-era turboprop warplanes will be phased out soon and replaced by Boeing-built jet aircraft. The Navy wants to know how people feel about the jets and where people think squadrons of the new planes should be located.
The service plans a public hearing Wednesday to give people a chance to comment on a draft environmental impact statement developed to assess the consequences of basing the planes at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station and at other locations.
The Navy plans to replace the venerable P-3 Orions with a jet, the P-8A multi-mission maritime aircraft. It's built on the air frame of the Boeing 737-800.
The P-8A Poseidon will be a long-range airplane that can be used for anti-submarine and surface warfare, surveillance and reconnaissance. The P-3 originally was developed as a submarine hunter.
The public hearing is 7 to 9 p.m. at the Oak Harbor School District office, 3500 S. Oak Harbor St., Oak Harbor. The hearing will be preceded by an information session, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., for people who want to learn more about the project and ask questions.
The new jets are expected to be a little noisier than the turboprops, but the number of takeoffs and landings is expected to be reduced by 10 percent under the preferred alternative.
In addition, the 1,194 personnel associated with the four squadrons and 24 jets at Whidbey would be about 320 less than associated with P-3 squadrons under the preferred alternative.
The draft study is at www.mmaeis.com. There's also a copy at the Oak Harbor library.
The study reviews six separate basing plans developed out of the need to replace the P-3 aircraft. Proposals include placing squadrons at Whidbey and in Florida and Hawaii.
"We'd like the public to know that input into this process is very much welcome," said Ted Brown, spokesman for the U.S. Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk, Va.
People can comment on the draft study at the hearing by speaking or filling out a comment card.
People also can mail comments to: Commander; Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Atlantic; Attn: MMA PM; 6506 Hampton Blvd.; Norfolk, Va., 23508-1278.
In addition, comments can be made at www.mmaeis.com, by using the "Comments and Contact Information" link, or by faxing to 757-322-4894. All comments must be received by April 25.

Reporter Jim Haley: 425-339-3447 or jhaley@heraldnet.com.
Public hearing
A public hearing on stationing new jets at Whidbey Island is 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Oak Harbor School District office, 3500 S. Oak Harbor St., Oak Harbor.
An information session for those who want to learn more or ask questions run from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
View the draft study or comment on the plan at www.mmaeis.com.

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