Eielson upgrades means more jet traffic at Army's Fort Wainwright

Posted: Tuesday, April 11, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- It's going to get a bit noisier around this Interior city this summer.

Eielson Air Force Base will be upgrading its 9,000-foot runway, meaning its North Pole-based squadron of F-16 fighter-bombers will be flying out of the Army's Fort Wainwright beginning later this month.

Military officials said the $12.5 million paving project will require more aircraft activity near Fairbanks, but the Air Force said it plans to fly its jets primarily between the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. They hope to route the planes around Fairbanks although they said circumstances may require that they fly over the city.

Air Force officials said tests have been conducted and they don't expect many problems for Wainwright's neighbors.

''We did a mockup (last year) of what it's going to be like this summer and we didn't receive a single noise complaint,'' said Airman Adam Stump, a spokesman for Eielson Air Force Base.

The power of the F-16s could pose a danger, however, for motorists driving along the routes bordering Fort Wainwright's landing strip. Red lights at each end of the runway will warn motorists when an aircraft is landing.

''They'll need to stop to avoid any kind of jet blast,'' said Linda Douglass, a civilian spokeswoman for Fort Wainwright. Pedestrians and bicyclists using the bike path also should avoid those areas when planes are landing or departing, she said.

''The biggest thing is going to be the noise,'' Douglass said. ''We're supporting them (Eielson officials) in trying to get the word out that it will be louder.''

Air traffic at Fort Wainwright's airstrip has been somewhat sparse, Douglass said.

A military jet traveling between Fort Greeley and Fort Richardson arrives twice each day, she said. There also is some occasional cargo traffic, along with Bureau of Land Management tanker flights during the summer firefighting season.

Another phase of the Eielson project will involve the installation of a $19.1 million fuel hydrant system. That will mean less reliance on hauling fuel in tanker trucks, officials said.

The F-16s are to begin operating out of Wainwright as early as April 27, officials said.

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