Field carrier practice landings at an airstrip near Coupeville would jump nearly fourfold under a preferred option announced this week for a planned expansion of the EA-18G Growler squadrons based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.
This training helps prepare flight crews for landing on ships at sea, and Navy officials say the Coupeville strip offers a more realistic experience than practicing at Ault Field located further north at the Naval Air Station.
The training tempo would increase due to the arrival of an additional 36 Growlers on Whidbey Island, which is the only place in the country where the Navy electronic warfare aircraft are based.
The Growler expansion has faced strong opposition from some residents on Whidbey and elsewhere in the region.
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Aircraft noise has been a major issue. Critics also have cited other concerns, including the prospect for additional land-use restrictions around the landing strip near Coupeville, and the arrival of more than 600 Navy personnel and their family members aggravating an island housing shortage.
"This is a 'not all of it in my backyard' argument,'" said Lori Taylor, a former Navy aviation spouse with Coupeville Community Allies, which has proposed siting the additional Growlers at another location.
Under the preferred option, the airfield near Coupeville would have a total of 24,100 takeoffs and landings annually. Most of them would be field carrier practices that involve brief touchdowns on the air field and lots of low-level flying. Under the preferred option, Growlers would make 88,000 takeoffs and landings at Ault Field annually, but most would not involve field carrier landing practices.
An environmental-impact statement on the expansion is scheduled to be published later this year. A final decision on the Growler expansion then will be made by the Secretary of the Navy.