Outlying Landing Field

Published 11:22 am Friday, May 28, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A House committee on Thursday rejected an amendment offered by Congressman G. K. Butterfield aimed at pushing the Navy to disclose all details concerning the effort to build an Outlying Landing Field (OLF) in northeastern North Carolina or southside Virginia.

“Given the potential impacts, I was trying ways to ensure a transparent process,” Butterfield said. “People are understandably concerned because they don’t believe that all the facts are on the table. This was an opportunity to help make sure all the facts and details were available for everyone before the Navy tries to move ahead.”

Butterfield offered a four-page amendment to the FY2011 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would have barred the Navy from spending any further funds toward the development of an OLF until the Navy provided Congress with detailed information about its needs and efforts.

Under the House Rules, the House Committee on Rules reviews proposed amendments before bills are sent to the House Floor for debate. Unfortunately, Butterfield said, the committee rejected the amendment without comment.

On Friday, the House was expected to begin debate on the NDAA, which seeks to authorize about $726 billion for defense budgets and provides defense-related policy and direction.

The Navy has been seeking to develop an OLF since 2000. Most recently, the Navy has been focused on five sites in North Carolina and Virginia. The Sandbanks area of Gates County is among those proposals. The Navy says it needs an OLF to support training for aircraft stationed at Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana and Naval Station Norfolk.

Meanwhile, Citizens Against OLF, a grassroots organization in Gates County, have lobbied against the proposed airfield since the Navy placed the county on its short list of five possible sites.

Last August, the Navy announced a delay in the release of a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) that examines those five sites. The Navy has made no indication of when it expects to release the EIS.

While the amendment was not included in the House version of the legislation, Butterfield said he hopes that it can be included in the Senate version, and as part of the final bill that goes before the President to be signed into law. Butterfield said he continues to support the will of the communities he represents.

According to the Navy’s web site, the Navy has proposed the construct of an OLF to support Field Carrier Landing Practice (FCLP) operations of carrier-based fixed-wing aircraft squadrons stationed at and transient to NAS Oceana, Virginia Beach, Virginia – F/A-18C Hornet and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet squadrons and Fleet Replacement Squadrons – and NS Norfolk Chambers Field, Norfolk, Virginia – E-2C Hawkeye, C-2A Greyhound, and E-2C/C-2A.

The proposed airfield would require the Navy to acquire about 30,000 acres of land through a combination of fee simple purchases and the purchase of restrictive use or conservation easements. About 2,000 acres would be used for the core area, which includes an 8,000-foot runway, aircraft traffic control tower/operations support center, aircraft and vehicle refueling stations, airport rescue and firefighting facility, firefighting training area and a rotating beacon tower.

Beyond the airfield, the remaining acreage would be used as a buffer area to ensure land use compatible with an OLF. The Navy also proposes to establish Class D airspace around the OLF.