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Winooski Residents React To Unexpected Preview Of F-35 Takeoff Noise

Michael and Julie Orenbach stand side-by-side in Winooski.
Emily Corwin
Julie and Michael Orenbach rent an apartment in Winooski. Julie told VPR that their neighbor's car alarm was set off three times by the F-35s taking off Friday.

Earlier this week, Burlington International Airport released a long-awaited report on the projected noise impact from the scheduled arrival of F-35 fighter jets later this year.

The report reignited a long-running debate about the basing decision — and then the region got an unexpected preview of what the planes will sound like Friday morning.

Four F-35s from Utah had made an unplanned stop in Burlington on their way to an overseas mission. The four planes stayed in town for about a day, and then took off around 8:20 a.m. Friday, creating a noise that was loud and clear to thousands of residents in South Burlington, Winooski, Burlington, Colchester, Essex and Williston.

The recently released report from Burlington International Airport said many more residents will hear higher levels of plane noise from the F-35s than from the F-16s that were based here for decades.

In Winooski, many longtime residents said the noise Friday was significantly louder than what they remember the F-16s creating. Lifelong Onion City resident Bruce Bushee said the takeoffs sounded like "a bomb."

"If my kids were there they would have thought we were going to war," said Cheryl Katon. "It was horrible."

Others described the sound as anything from a thunderstorm to a lion's roar. Some residents said they noticed little difference from the F-16 noise.

Winooski City Manager Jessie Baker said the F-35s were audible Friday in City Hall, but she did not receive many calls or emails from city residents.

"If my kids were there they would have thought we were going to war. It was horrible." — Cheryl Katon, on Friday's F-35 takeoff

Earlier this week Nic Longo, deputy director of aviation at Burlington International Airport, said the airport will seek federal funding to mitigate the noise for nearby residents. Longo said the airport will likely seek between $2.5 million and $7 million each year to help 50 to 100 homes per year by upgrading windows and doors and possibly offering buyouts.

However, the money may not arrive until 2021, concerning Baker and other local officials.

“We are hopeful that our [congressional] delegation, which has supported the F-35s coming to Burlington, will help advocate for sound mitigation dollars coming from the FAA,” Baker said.

Baker said about 40% of Winooski residents will experience higher noise levels as outlined in the newly released map. Winooski has seen significant commercial and residential development in recent years.

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