The Navy has released the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) analyzing EA-18G Growler operations at the Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island Complex. It contains updated information since the release of the Draft EIS in November 2016 and identifies Alternative 2A as the preferred alternative.
Alternative 2A was announced as the Navy’s preferred alternative on June 25, 2018. The announcement was made to provide the public the most updated information on the Navy’s current position with respect to the proposed action. No decision has yet been made. The ultimate decision with respect to force structure and Field Carrier Landing Practice (FCLP) distribution will be made by the Secretary of the Navy or his representative and announced in a Record of Decision no earlier than 30 days following today’s public release of the Final EIS.
Alternative 2A would establish two new expeditionary squadrons and add two aircraft to each squadron that operates off aircraft carriers (CVN). This alternative would add 36 aircraft home based at NAS Whidbey Island, increase the airfield operations at both Ault Field and Outlying Landing Field (OLF) Coupeville, and change the distribution of FCLP between the two airfields. This preferred alternative would provide the best, most realistic training for Navy pilots and take into consideration the noise impacts to all surrounding communities.
Ault Field would support 88,000 total airfield operations, which represents an increase of 9,800 annual operations over current conditions. OLF Coupeville would support 24,100 annual operations, which represents an increase of 17,590 operations per year. While there would be an increase in operations at both airfields under this alternative, Ault Field would still support four times the number of total aircraft operations when compared to OLF Coupeville. An airfield operation is defined as either a takeoff or landing; therefore, an FCLP pass counts as two operations. For context, in recent years OLF Coupeville has been used about 90 hours per year, or about one percent of the time. The Navy is proposing an increase in operations at OLF Coupeville to about 360 hours per year, or about four percent of the time.
The preferred alternative would place the majority of FCLP operations at OLF Coupeville because OLF Coupeville provides more realistic training for Navy aviators. OLF Coupeville has been continuously used for FCLP since the late 1960s. OLF Coupeville’s pattern best replicates the CVN pattern, building and reinforcing the correct habit patterns and muscle memory. OLF Coupeville sits on a 200-foot ridge surrounded by flat terrain, similar to the aircraft carrier operating on the water. The low cultural lighting around Coupeville and the ability to completely darken the field also closely resembles at-sea conditions from the pilots’ perspective.
Field Carrier Landing Practice Schedule at the NAS Whidbey Island Complexfor Week of August 19-25, 2019