Sunday, January 10, 2016

Flyboys in cold rain get warm welcome: Pilot training starts Monday at Kingman Airport (KIGM), Mohave County, Arizona

Ensign Jared Gojmerac of VT28 talks to David Bein at the open house Thursday at the Mohave Airport.

Lt. Matt Young talks to a visitor at the open house about the Beechcraft T-6B Texan aircraft that will be used during Navy aviation training at Kingman Airport.

KINGMAN - Any complaints about noise fell upon deaf ears at Thursday's open house for U.S. Navy aviation training that starts this week at Bullhead City and Kingman airports.

Most of the people who wandered onto the tarmac at Kingman Airport in the freezing rain to view the Beechcraft T-6B Texan aircraft that will be soaring over the skies of Mohave County for the next couple months were military retirees and their wives.

For them, the sound of airplane engines and propellers buzzing overhead is the "sound of freedom."

They were there to ask questions about the flying range and speed of the T-6B Texan, where the flight patterns were going to be, and what kind of training would the young pilots receive.

Last year, when the Navy conducted its first aviation training at Kingman Airport, officials received hundreds of calls, letters and e-mails from residents complaining that their treasured peace and quiet was being disrupted.

"What the hell do you expect?" asked Ernest Burley, a former Navy officer who brought a picture of the trainer he flew in the 1950s to share with instructor pilots.

He remembers answering the phone when he was stationed in Japan and listening to a lady complain about Marines flying at night.

"I said, 'Aren't you glad they're ours?'" Burley recalled.

About 150 personnel from U.S. Navy Training Wing 4 in Corpus Christi, Texas, will be performing touch-and-go landings at Kingman Airport and learning basic flight maneuvers, said Jack Bauer, Lieutenant Commander of VT27 and VT28 squadrons. About 28 flight instructors are also coming to the area.

Students will learn how the aircraft works and practice takeoff and landing patterns, along with precision aerobatics and formation flights, the squadron commander said.

Any issues with noise will be addressed through proper channels, Bauer said.

"We'll continue to operate properly and within standards," he said at the two-hour open house that drew about 50 visitors. "If people have a problem, they can call the airport. If there are issues, we'll work with people to minimize the impact."

Bob Riley, economic development director for Kingman Airport Authority, said he built a database of about 60 people who called last year about the noise. Most of them were from Golden Valley, which lies in the flight path from Bullhead City to Kingman, and some were from as far away as Wikieup and Yucca.

"It is unique, no doubt about it," Riley said of the aircraft noise. "It's the pitch of the propeller and 1,100-horsepower engine. You'll hear it."

The Navy training at Kingman Airport won't provide much of an economic boost, Riley said. Because the airport receives funding from the Federal Aviation Administration, it is required to allow the Navy to use its facilities at no cost, he said.

All of the aviators are from the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, and there are no foreign students, Lt. Matt Young said. They're staying at the River Lodge in Laughlin.

Flight training had taken place at Roswell, N.M., but the weather there has not been conducive to flying, the Navy instructor said on a particularly rainy and cold day in Kingman.

"I think the weather is supposed to get better," Young said. "Last year was beautiful. It's usually great out here, but it's better than the weather in Corpus Christi."

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