Construction, noise addressed

Capt. Erin Dorrance
Kaiserslautern American

Construction projects, the economic impact and aircraft noise were all
subjects covered by the Union Community Ramstein-Miesenbach and base
leadership July 10 on Ramstein Air Base.

Thirty mayors and council members from the Ramstein-Miesenbach area
attended the meeting to voice their concerns and ask questions about
Ramstein issues, as well as to take a base tour where leadership
highlighted the base’s mission and new construction projects.  

“I understand the challenges you have living next to a large air base,
and I am here to provide you with information that you can take back to
your constituents to explain the steps the base takes to be a good
neighbor,” said Col. Richard Johnston, Kaiserslautern Military
Community and 86th Airlift Wing commander.  

The Union Community asked Ramstein leadership the following questions
which were answered by Colonel Johnston; Mayor Klaus Layes,
Ramstein-Miesenbach mayor; Col. Hank Sanders, 86th Operations Group
commander; Lt. Col. Martin Winkler, 86th Operations Support Squadron
director of operations; and Joe Dunkle, 435th Air Base Wing Civil
Engineer Squadron deputy commander.  

Union Community member- Will the Kaiserslautern Military Community Center take away from our local economy?

Col. Johnston- German employment is expected to increase with the
opening of the KMCC.  The Center will consolidate existing
facilities and a total of 46 stores will include American and German

Union Community member- Will the construction of the new base pool take business away from the Azur Schwimmbad in Ramstein?

Mayor Layes- In a worst case scenario, we expect a 50 percent decrease
in U.S. customers when the base pool opens in the spring of 2008.

Col. Johnston- The base pool is needed to help personnel maintain their
physical fitness and to meet existing training requirements.  

Mr. Dunkle- The base pool complex will include six 25 meter lanes and a
shallow pool area for children.  Fees at both pools will be about
the same.  
Union Community member- There is a lot of housing construction on base;
will it reduce the number of military members living in the local
Mr. Dunkle- Ramstein has implemented a phased building plan to replace
stairwell living units with town homes. When all the phases are
complete, the base will have 2,800 homes, which is significantly less
than the 5,000 the base had available in the past.  The base
simply houses military members the economy can not accommodate.

Union Community Member- Is Ramstein considering moving its aircraft training mission to reduce the noise in our community?

Col. Johnston- We understand your concern with jet noise and have taken
numerous steps to reduce the noise.  However, we do need to
conduct some training at the air base.

Lt. Col. Winkler- There are two factors that prohibit us from moving
our training mission; money and efficiency. We can fly one hour to
another airfield to do a single approach or we can accomplish a dozen
approaches in that same hour right here at Ramstein.  

Col. Johnston- We traveled to other bases to include the U.S. to keep
our aircrews proficient in late night and formation flying as part of
our effort to be good neighbors. Approximately 35 percent of our
training is on station and 65 percent is conducted off station. It is
also important to note that the majority of aircraft noise comes from
operational missions, not training.  Additionally our efforts to
adjust flight patterns and departure procedure have received positive
feedback from community members.    

Union Community Member- Since the Rhein Main closure, has Ramstein’s flight operations increased?

Lt. Col. Winkler- We expected our flight operations to increase once we
closed Rhein Main, but we have actually seen a decrease. In 2004, there
were 32,500 flights which decreased to 28,000 in 2005.  

Union Community Member- Do pilots ignore the air traffic control personnel and fly where they want?

Lt. Col. Winkler- Absolutely not. Flying is an exact business and it
requires professional behavior. Pilots must obey flight rules and
directions or they could lose their license.  

Union Community Member- By opening the north runway, I fear aircraft
noise will increase. Has the base taken this into consideration?

Lt. Col. Winkler- We have taken every possible step to find the optimal
departure path that has the lowest noise impact on local communities.
We worked closely with U.S. Air Forces in Europe and the Amt für
Flugsicherung der Bundeswehr (German Armed Forces Air Traffic Services
Office) to ensure the optimal solution.    

Union Community Member- There is a lot of helicopter noise in the area, is the base doing anything to address this issue?

Col. Johnston- The helicopters are a U.S. Army mission that flies
aeromedical evacuation flights. When we receive noise complaints
regarding helicopter operations, I address them with my Army
counterpart. I can tell you that the Army is aggressively working the

Union Community Member- Could the base reduce aircraft noise by relying on ground transport for cargo instead of air?

Col. Johnston- In my last assignment I worked at U.S. Transportation
Command and we often discussed this issue.  It is much cheaper to
ship cargo by ground transport and the U.S. Air Force only ships about
10 percent of its cargo via air. However, the 10 percent that is
shipped by air is essential to accomplish our mission.  

Union Community Member- Is the base considering operating quieter planes or engines?

Col. Sanders- Ramstein retired two of the loudest aircraft in the U.S.
Air Force, the C-9, and the C-141. The U.S. Air Force is working
diligently to design engines and other aircraft parts to decrease the
noise aircraft give off.

Union Community Member- Is there a plan for Ramstein to receive the quieter C-130J aircraft?

Col. Johnston- Currently, planning calls for Ramstein to receive its first C-130J in fiscal year 2009.

Colonel Johnston and Mayor Layes thanked everyone for attending and for
voicing their opinions and those of their constituents.