Many Wilmington residents have noticed an uptick in military aircraft, flying low -- and loud -- over residential parts of the city. Here's why it's happening, and what you might be able to do about it.
That’s a Boeing F-18 Hornet -- likely a new model Superhornet -- flying over the Murrayville neighborhood, north of Wilmington. Residents here are used to aircraft landing and taking off from Wilmington International Airport, which is just a mile away.
But military aircraft clearly occupy a different register on the decibel chart. And while you can talk comfortably even as a 737 flies overhead, when a twin-engine jet fighter flies by just a few hundred feet above the ground it can be hard to hear anything else.
*aircraft noise, again*
The jets have been performing touch-and-go flights, doing multiple laps around the Wilmington area.
For fans of military aircraft, this means plenty of chances to see the planes reasonably close-up as they fly low in and out of the airport. For others, though, it means a profound nuisance. On social media, including Facebook and NextDoor, opinions are split, with some are posting things like -- ‘sounds like Freedom’ in all caps -- while others complain of disrupted home office spaces, babies woken from naps, and even glasses shaken off tables.
According to ILM, the jets use Wilmington’s airport to train, preparing to use civilian airfields in forward deployed combat areas. In addition, the fueling company Modern Aviation signed a ‘hot-refueling’ contract last July -- when many commercial flights had been grounded due to Covid-19. The contract allows repeated touch-and-go flights, and is likely to be renewed, meaning the issue probably isn’t going away soon.
Because ILM was originally deeded to the county by the federal government, and gets Federal Aviation Administration grants, the military is effectively allowed to use the airport at will. And, more to the point of some complaints, they’re exempt from both 1,000-foot commercial flight floor, and noise ordinances.
ILM has shared the contact information for several local airbases. While these bases have Noise Offices, it’s unclear how receptive they will be to complaints. As Port City Daily recently reported, the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station New River posted on its website, “it’s the sound of freedom.”
According to ILM, "members of the public may reach out to ILM’s public safety office at (910) 341-4336 to confirm which military base(s) is utilizing ILM." The most common bases are listed below:
• Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point Area Noise Abatement Hotline: (252) 466-1092
• Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort Community Hotline: (843) 228-6229 Website: www.beaufort.marines.mil
• Seymour Johnson Air Force Base – online
• Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River Phone Line: (910) 449-6311
For WHQR, I’m Ben Schachtman.