As weather shifts, noise from Vance AFB training flights could be louder
By JAMES NEAL | Enid News & Eagle, Okla. | Published: October 25, 2018
ENID, Okla. (Tribune News Service) — Colder weather, winds out of the north and efforts to increase pilot output may lead to increased noise from overflying Vance Air Force Base aircraft in coming months, according to a statement released this week by the 71st Flying Training Wing office of public affairs.
"Since 1941, the roar of military aircraft in the sky has been a part of daily life in Enid," said Capt. Bartholomew Dietrick, with the 71st Operations Support Squadron, in the statement. "An increase in the number of student pilots training at Vance Air Force Base and seasonal weather patterns may make that roar seem even louder lately."
According to figures provided by the 71st Flying Training Wing, almost 34,000 pilots have been trained at the base since it opened, and the pace of its pilot production is increasing.
Vance produced 324 pilots in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, and output is projected to increase to at least 420 pilots in fiscal year 2019 — a 30 percent increase — according to the wing statement.
As pilot output increases, Dietrick said Vance is using technology and innovation, including the use of more simulator time and virtual technology, to limit any increases in the number flights from the base.
"Leveraging technology, student pilots are building proficiency in simulators and virtual reality environments instead of adding to airspace congestion and noise," Dietrick said in the press release. "This modern training method is streamlining pilot production and directly results in fewer flights per student, which allows us to train more students without significantly increasing the number of flights over the local community."
If Enid residents are hearing more aircraft noise, Dietrick said "chances are the weather is to blame."
As fall and winter weather sets in, and Enid's predominant winds shift out of the north, Vance's aircraft more often take off heading north, into the wind, during their loudest phase of flight in the local air traffic pattern, according to the statement.
Dietrick said T-38s, Vance's "loudest aircraft," departing the base when the winds are out of the north fly a climbing 13-mile path that takes them north from the base between Oakwood Road and Cleveland Street, until they reach an altitude of 10,000 feet, and then turn west into the base's training areas.
"During departure, aircraft engines are operating at their highest power setting," Dietrick said, "which means this phase of flight is the loudest."
Increased cloud cover also reflects more noise to the ground, and can "cause aircraft to fly lower in order to maintain visual flight rules, bringing the noise source even closer," Dietrick said.
"These factors are a recipe for more noise over neighborhoods north of the base," Dietrick said in the prepared statement. "The good news for local residents is any increase in sound they hear is likely only temporary and will change as soon as the wind does.
"Team Vance sincerely appreciates the Enid community’s tremendous patience and support of our mission, our airmen and our families," Dietrick said.