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Low-flying Ospreys spook residents near Hurlburt Field

Concerned callers lit up the emergency lines at Jackson County, Fla., Sheriff’s Office on Thursday night as low-flying aircraft buzzed overhead in neighborhoods near the Marianna Municipal Airport and the Indian Springs subdivision.

Jackson County Sheriff Lou Roberts confirmed Friday that he learned those were Osprey aircraft deployed to carry out military training maneuvers. Stationed at Hurlburt Field, an Air Force Special Operations Wing based in nearby Walton County, the Osprey CV22’s were here to carry out nighttime formation exercises at the Marianna Municipal Airport, performing approaches, landings and such, according to the public relations department at Hurlburt.

Roberts said he also understood they were working in a flight line stretching from Marianna to Tallahassee. Osprey aircraft have the capacity to behave as an airplane or convert into helicopter mode.

They worked in the general area for about two hours, with some apprehensive local citizens reporting that they feared a crash was imminent when they heard and saw the craft flying so low to the ground, Roberts said. Others were just curious.

Roberts said he understood the concerns, and that it would be nice if military officials would notify law enforcement when such exercises were scheduled so his dispatchers could explain if people called in. He doesn’t foresee that happening, however, and said that he also understood the need to keep a tight reign on such information.

“We’re close to some military bases, so occasionally they’ll train here. I guess when you’re sitting at your house and they’re flying low overhead, it is disconcerting, but it’s also something that I and, I think, most of us are willing to tolerate because these training session are what help keep our country safe. We just have to be patient with it.”

The Marianna airport, he said, is in a way ideal for the exercises because of its history as a flight training point for military pilots.

He was not sure how many Ospreys were there, and the Hurlburt source was also unsure, but civilians reported seeing more than one in the air at the same time.

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