Meridian Star

October 20, 2013

NAS Meridian to host open houses

Noise level for nearby residents to be addressed

By Terri Ferguson Smith / tsmith@themeridianstar.com
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     Living in the shadow of Naval Air Station Meridian can be noisy at times, but residents  know the noise of airplanes is part of life in northeastern Lauderdale County.

    NAS Meridian's more than 8,000 acres are 15 miles northeast of Meridian, with part of the base in the southwestern portion of Kemper County. The Navy opened the base in 1961 to train Navy and Marine Corps  war fighters.

    As airplanes have changed over the years, so have the noise levels that those on the ground must cope with. When aviation students at NAS started using the T-45 in 1997, the noise level changed, according to Jim Copeland, community planning and liaison officer for NAS Meridian.

    That's why NAS Meridian is hosting two open houses later this month to give the public access to information they need to know about the base.

    The first open house will be Oct. 28, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Northeast Middle School on Highway 39. The second open house will be the following day, Oct. 29, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in DeKalb at the Barney Brown Senior Citizens Center north of the Kemper County Courthouse.

    Copeland described one situation near the Navy base where about 25 mobile homes are located on top of a hill near where Terry Road and Kemper Springs Road meet. That is close to an area where planes turn to come into the north runway, he said.

    "Because of the altitude of that hill, planes are not far overhead; probably less than 450 feet and there is intense noise," Copeland said. "Most of the trailers are old with the crank type windows. They are not noise insulated so people are subjected to noise from the time they get started at 7 or 8 in the morning until 11 or 12 at night."

    Those flights become more frequent as the time grows closer for the student pilots to be tested on their landing capability on an aircraft carrier in the Gulf.

    "That's when people start to call with noise complaints," Copeland said. "They can't sleep at night; they have to go to work the next day."

    NAS Meridian has noise complaints, about 20 a year, he said, which is far fewer than some bases. Still there are ways to insulate homes from the noise, such as insulating windows and doors with materials designed to cut down on the noise level, he said.

    When pilots are learning to land on an aircraft carrier, they are given very specific instructions on how to approach and land, according to Susan Junkins, public affairs officer.

    "Over time the pattern; the way they circle the carrier and come in for the landing has been fine-tuned to the safest way to do it," Junkins said. "They have to fly the airplane the way they have been trained to fly the airplane."

    For safety purposes, there can be no deviations from the procedure, she said. The Navy can't change its mission to reduce noise, Copeland said.

    However, residents who live in these fly zones or are considering moving there should arm themselves with as much information as possible so they go in aware of what they are facing and so they can sound-proof their house as much as possible. Copeland said he doesn't know of any mobile home that can be equipped to cut down the 30 decibel level of noise.

    However, a person who wants to build or locate a mobile home in the area can find out where their property lies within the flight zone. They can contact the Lauderdale County Permit Office at 2525 B 14th Street in Meridian or call the office at: 601-484-3992.

    For safety in case of an accident with one of the planes there are also rules about how many houses can be placed within a certain amount of acres. That varies according to the property's proximity to the runways.

    Cathy Lummus, Lauderdale Permit Office director, said those are the rules that regulate houses in the high hazard areas. She can tell a property owner or potential property owner what areas are in which zones.

    "We do have regulations as to what can be and can't be put in certain zones," Lummus said.

    Specifications for sound-proofing a house are available by calling Copeland's office at 601-679-3896.

    The open houses scheduled for this month will give the public an opportunity to learn more and ask questions of officers who will be on hand at various poster stations, Copeland said.

    Copeland said NAS Meridian is the largest employer in Lauderdale County with about 3,300 employees and an economic impact of $222 million annually.