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Gowen Thunder fuels noise concerns over F-35

Gowen Field is one of five bases being considered by the Air Force for its future F-35 mission.

The Gowen Thunder Open House and Air Show has come and gone, but many in Boise are still wondering, why didn't the Idaho National Guard bring F-35s out to fly?

Gowen Field is one of five bases being considered by the Air Force for its future F-35 mission.

If selected, 18 F-35 jets would replace one-for-one the 18 A-10s currently flown at Gowen.

"The noise we currently have from the planes here, the A-10s, is acceptable," said Dave Daly, a member of Citizens for a Livable Boise. "But when we're talking about increasing the noise, that is not something we signed up for."

Daly is among several residents who say they would have liked to see the F-35 in action to get an idea of how it will be if the fighter jet takes permanent residence in our city.

"They had an excellent opportunity to show the people of Boise how loud they are going to be and they didn't do that," said Daly.

So, why weren't the two F-35s on display at Gowen over the weekend flown during the show?

According to Major Christopher Borders with the Idaho National Guard, it's an issue of availability.

"The F-35s that are in existence are used to perform in overseas combat missions," said Major Borders. "They're just aren't a lot of them to go around doing things like the Thunderbirds do."

Major Borders says the guard has requested to have an F-35 flown over Boise multiple times but because of supply and demand those requests have been denied.

The two F-35s at the air show were only authorized to be on static display, according to Major Borders.

He also says the noise during an airshow is not comparable to how the jets would be used on a normal basis.

"They're doing things we would never do over a population center like Boise," said Major Borders.

He says the guard follows strict noise abatement procedures to make sure their missions don't interfere with the community.

For example, they aim to fly just two times a day, once in the mid-morning and once in the afternoon.

Also, when they do take off, they aren't doing loops above the city but rather taking off directly south into the desert for training operations.

Major Borders says the guard would also restrict the F-35 jets from using loud afterburners at Gowen Field.

By following these kind of noise abatement procedures, even now with the A-10s, Borders says the Idaho National Guard has never had complaints about their operations from the public.

In fact, he says the only complaints he has received up until the air show had to do with commercial operations at the Boise Airport.

Still, noise concerns are very real for the people of Boise and before any decision is made on bringing F-35s to Boise, an extensive environmental impact study will take place.

The survey will be conducted by an unbiased third party group, selected by the U.S. Air Force and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The group will measure sound levels and assess the impact on the community.

As part of the study, there will also be an opportunity for the community to give their input on the topic at public meetings.

KBOI 2News will announce once those public forums are scheduled.

The final decision on whether Gowen Field is selected by the Air Force for its F-35 mission is expected to happen in late fall, according to Major Borders.

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