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AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — Many in the Air Force refer to the roar of jets as the “sound of freedom.”

So, in essence, Italian experts will spend the next year or two determining how much “freedom” the F-16s from the 31st Fighter Wing generate over the surrounding countryside while taking off, landing and flying various missions.

Mayors from five surrounding communes — or municipalities — met last month to talk about noise pollution, with much of the emphasis placed on the sounds coming from the base. But all three of the local leaders contacted recently said they don’t expect additional restrictions to be placed on the jets because of the study, though some rerouting might be possible.

“The process has nothing to do with trying to find a way to get the base to leave,” said Renzo Liva, mayor of Roveredo in Piano.

Though the base is not the sole target of the study — experts also will monitor emissions from industry and other sources — it is clearly the focus. But it isn’t being singled out because it’s used by Americans or by the military. The evaluation is similar to ones being conducted across the country around all airports, the mayors said.

Riccardo Berto, the mayor of Aviano, said the five communes agreed to provide information to the region and environmental agencies in order for the study to be conducted. He said it was “premature” to discuss the impact the study could have on such things as new construction in the affected areas.

The initial part of the process will be to map out areas where the noise is the loudest. Unless the Italian military decides to alter the routes that planes fly around Aviano, it’s likely that no new residential construction would be allowed in those areas.

In fact, Liva and Giovanni Baviera, the mayor of Fontanafredda, said there have been long-standing limits in place restricting new construction near the base. Liva, who said he doesn’t receive many noise complaints, said his city of about 5,000 people just south of the flight line hasn’t grown toward the base for about 15 years.

In an interview in his office, he suggested that homeowners found to have property in most heavily affected areas might not see the noise reduced, but could benefit from compensation such as having property values, and thus taxes, lowered.

Baviera said most of the sectors he’s responsible for aren’t in the flight path either. He said the jets routinely fly over Vigonovo and Ranzano before landing, but he doesn’t really receive complaints from those communities either.

But Berto said noise clearly is an issue to some.

“The noise issue is important, because the base is only 3 or 4 kilometers from the (Aviano) city center,” he said, noting that he does receive noise complaints.

San Quirino, another of the communes affected, isn’t far from the standard takeoff point and residents there have also complained. The base reportedly made some changes this spring to address concerns there.

The study results aren’t expected to be compiled and released until 2007 or 2008.

Wing officials haven’t been involved in the evaluation and referred comment to the Italians.

Interpreter Valentina Schiu contributed to this report.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.
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