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Airman 1st Class Paul Driscoll, a hydraulics specialist, readies to direct in a C-130J on Ramstein Air Base's flight line in April 2009 .
Airman 1st Class Paul Driscoll, a hydraulics specialist, readies to direct in a C-130J on Ramstein Air Base's flight line in April 2009 . (Ben Bloker/Stars and Stripes)

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — The mayor of Ramstein-Miesenbach may get his wish for quieter skies this summer.

Air Force officials at Ramstein Air Base said last week that they’ll conduct C-130 training flights earlier in the day to reduce nightly aircraft noise during June, July and August, with the goal of finishing by 5 p.m.

The schedule change was announced Wednesday at the semi-annual Combined Noise Abatement Committee meeting on base between military and local officials and comes in response to a request from Mayor Klaus Layes, said 86th Airlift Wing spokesman Capt. John Ross.

Layes said he made the request about a year ago and also asked whether the base’s new C-130J models could adjust their flying patterns to reduce aircraft noise.

It appears the Air Force will try to accommodate Layes on both issues.

Curtailing evening flying in the summertime — something the wing has never done — won’t impact the mission, Ross said.

At the height of the German summer — when it stays light past 9 p.m. — pilots don’t get the same benefits from night-flying that they do during the winter months, Ross said.

So “we’ll move the process up earlier out of consideration for the people of the communities around the base,” he said.

The new schedule also won’t affect aircraft coming through Ramstein bound for Afghanistan.

Earlier this year, Air Force officials said nighttime and early-morning flights at Ramstein and Spangdahlem air bases would increase through the spring and summer months as the military ferries additional troops and equipment to Afghanistan. Those missions have not peaked yet, Ross said.

The new C-130 training schedule will begin in June. While pilots will start mission planning earlier, the change won’t impact the base’s flying quiet hours between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., Ross said.

War-bound aircraft aside, even the non-quiet hours might seem less noisy to surrounding communities, due to a change in flying patterns that Air Force officials also announced at Wednesday’s meeting.

The new C-130J models can climb faster than the older E-models, enabling pilots to turn sooner while practicing “touch-and-go” landings and to contain their flying pattern over the base, Ross said. The new route will greatly reduce the number of aircraft flying above the towns of Ramstein, Steinwenden, Kottweiler-Schwanden, Miesenbach and Mackenbach, base officials said.

“We’ll still be using the old pattern, but we’re predicting it will be used a lot less frequently,” Ross said.

Despite the assurances, some area residents are still skeptical.

Doris Emrich, a member of a citizen protest group from Kaiserslautern, said Thursday she isn’t expecting much to change.

Over the years, the U.S. military has continually promised to reduce aircraft noise, she said, but “years later we are still dealing with the same old problems” and aircraft noise hasn’t improved.

But Landstuhl Mayor Klaus Grumer, who attended Wednesday’s meeting, is more optimistic.

“I think the proposal the Americans made sounds reasonable and it makes sense,” he said. “Of course, we will watch the attempt and see if it really works out, but … it is a step in the right direction.”

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