Although environmental studies are not yet complete, word is out that the U.S. Air Force considers Luke Air Force Base in Glendale the "preferred" home for its newest war bird: the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
The studies being conducted by the Air Force are key to determining how the military aircraft affects surrounding communities. They are supposed to analyze noise issues, for example. El Mirage residents, nearby neighbors of the base, have long been concerned about their community's being subjected to excessive noise as the fighter jets rip across the West Valley skies.
Funny thing is that El Mirage officials have been repeatedly told to mute their concerns until after the completion of military studies. Air Force officials it made clear they couldn't answer questions about noise because they had no way of knowing how loud the jets would be until after the analysis.
They, um, seem pretty confident now.
Gary Strasburg, an Air Force spokesman at the Pentagon, told Arizona Republic reporters Cecilia Chan and David Madrid, that while the Air Force still has to go through the environmental analysis before declaring Luke as their final choice, they believe that when the analysis is complete, "it will still be the right choice for us."
While things haven't looked good for El Mirage or others with concerns about jet noise affecting their property values or quality of life, this could be good news for such West Valley residents. It could mean that Air Force officials are far enough along with noise analysis that they can, with confidence, say that Luke is the right choice for the F-35.
After all, a press release posted Wednesday on the U.S. Air Force Website notes that an F-35 environmental analysis conducted in Florida (and being released in September) also will name that state's Eglin Air Force Base as a "preferred alternative" for 59 of the F-35.
Kathleen Ferguson, the Air Force deputy assistant secretary for installations said that the "goal has been to ensure that Eglin can support the ... F-35 training mission to the greatest extent possible with a minimal amount of negative impact to existing missions, the environment, and the surrounding communities." She said officials plan to "minimizes operations, to the maximum extent practicable, to reduce noise impacts on the surrounding communities."
Encouraging words for local residents with noise concerns.
Also, what a nice tidbit of news for U.S. Senator John McCain of Arizona to be able to share just as early voting gets under way, observes political spin-meister Jason Rose.
Rose tweeted: "Coincidence or exceptional power? Mccain and air force announce luke air force base as f-35 training base day voting begins in az."
McCain is running for re-election and faces J.D. Hayworth in an August 24 Republican primary.
While there were a lot of cheerleaders for Luke who went to Washington D.C. to talk up the West Valley base, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard deserves props for filing a lawsuit against the county to protect the base from future encroachment.
Regardless of your view on Goddard as a gubernatorial candidate, he challenged the Maricopa County officials' claims that landowners' property rights prevented them from adopting development rules to keep single-family homes away from the base.
Goddard sued and forced the county to add an extra layer of protection for Luke.