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Residents Discuss Possible Helicopter Crash, Noise at Navy AICUZ Meeting

Few people attended the event, but those who did expressed concerns with noise, flight path violations and the possibility of a helicopter crash in nearby neighborhoods.

Dante Pamintuan lives with his family in the Seaside Point neighborhood.

Last year the former Marine joined neighbors that live near Naval Outlying Landing Field Imperial Beach (NOLF IB) in opposition to an . 

NOLF IB is a center of Navy pilot training in the western United States and has historically been called "the helicopter capital of the world."

He has not filed any noise or flight complaints since then, and is happy to see the Navy work with the community, but is still concerned about a helicopter crash in the area.

"The captain did say there could be a remote possibility," he said. "I told him any possibility isn't acceptable to me."

Pamintuan was one of few people who attended the Navy's open house Wednesday evening in the Community Room at City Hall to discuss an update to the Air Installation Compatibility Use Zone, or AICUZ report.

Around 10 members of the public came to the event, with U.S. Navy staff and members of the media outnumbering attendees, to discuss the report which governs flight operations conducted at NOLF IB and Naval Air Station North Island.

A second open house . More than 90 people attended.

Among entities that operate in the crowded airspace of the two fields include fixed wing aircraft from San Diego International Airport, Brown Field Regional Airport and Tijuana International Airport. 

In IB, there are helicopters flights by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Coast Guard and the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.

The roar of Marine fighter jets and faint buzz of Navy T-34 training flights have also frequented skies around IB recently, said Angelic Dolan with the Navy. 

The 2011 AICUZ is a combination of NOLF IB and NASNI reports approved in the 1980s, with new studies incorporated to reflect the addition or subtraction of aircraft and other changes.

Among modifications made to the updated report:

- portions of the Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge, the Hotel del Coronado and Coronado beachfront homes will be included in Accident Potential Zones. After the report was released in April, City of Coronado officials

- noise contours established in 2010 will be adopted, with part of contours reaching into homes north of the fenceline between residents and the landing field

"Again, is there a risk? Sure. But is it mitigated? You bet," said Naval Base Coronado commander Captain Yancy Lindsey.

A training pilot, instructor and air crewman are aboard each touch-and-go operation conducted at NOLF IB, and they know to stay vigilant in busy local skies.

Accident zones are determined based on a cross section of Naval aviation operations that pose the highest risk of crash, not a single field, he said.

Based on recommendations made by residents and the City of Imperial Beach last year during discussions about the impact of an increase in flight at the IB landing field, the Navy moved take-off operations to the more northerly runway 26 to runway 27 which is a bit further south.

Ultimately, he said, the Navy has operated in the area for decades with little incident. People who moved into neighborhoods directly next to the landing field were aware of the noise and activity at the landing field.

Pamintuan would like to see helicopter operations moved to a retired ship offshore or at NAS North Island where the helicopters are based. 

"The problem at North Island is that we're so busy there already that the repetition of flights would disrupt things," Lindsey said.

Seven accidents have been recorded at NASNI since 1979.

Captain Lindsey and the AICUZ cite no accidents at NOLF IB during the same time period.

The next step toward final approval of the AICUZ report is review by the San Diego County Regional Airport Authoritynin order to revise its Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan. This will likely take place within the next year, said Ben Henderson, who was at the open house to speak with people about noise issues.

The original NOLF IB AICUZ was released in 1977 and updated in 1989.

To read through the full document, you can visit the  or see the PDF attached to this story.

Lenora Porcella moved to Imperial Beach to retire and purchased a home months before plans to increase helicopter activity were announced. She doesn't understand why the AICUZ update wasn't carried out before helicopter operation increases were approved.

"I was told last night that this is a consolidation, a cost cutting measure to overwhelm IB with noise," she said. "This would never happen in a real city. IB has the misfortune to have a high population of military who vote elsewhere, a high population of poor, young Navy people who can't fight back, and a part-time city council who has done little to protect its citizens."

Chris Kyburg, who works in Navy environmental sciences, has lived near 2nd Street and Donax Avenue for 12 years. His top concern is still noise and helicopters that deviate from designated flight paths.

"It's fairly tolerable when they're flying in the designed flight paths and pretty annoying when they don't," Kyburg said. 

Current flight paths dictate that helicopters that fly from IB leave NOLF IB heading west, take a right over the ocean and cross over to San Diego Bay over Highway 75 north of IB.

"I think sometimes they cut corners and fly over the beach," he said, noting that he has seen the belly of helicopters flying directly overhead from his home.

I am so saddened that I can't walk, what I think is the most beautiful beach in the world, and hear peace and quiet near the river mouth on most days. It's like destroying Yosemite or another treasured park," she said.

"I think the public has been deprived of due process, and that our rights have been violated. The Navy is crushing a community that can't fight back. It is big government at its worst."

Chris Kyburg, who works in Navy environmental sciences, has lived near 2nd Street and Donax Avenue for 12 years. His top concern is still noise andhelicopters that deviate from designated flight paths.

"It's fairly tolerable when they're flying in the designed flight paths and pretty annoying when they don't," Kyburg said. 

"I think sometimes they cut corners and fly over the beach," he said, noting that he has seen the belly of helicopters flying directly overhead from his home.

Pat P June 27, 2012 at 05:55 AM
This meeting was not publicized enough in IB. Many of my neighbors didn't know about it. We are in Seaside Point, which has been besieged by the tremendous increase in noise. These pilots are deviating from the approved flight path, flying over our homes. The windows and patio doors rattle so loud some days/evenings I think they are going to break. And they are flying til 11 pm or later some nights.

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