Senator Leahy's failure of a response to a complaint about the F-35 noise pollution
We must keep up the pressure until our elected officials recognize the harm the F-35 is doing to Vermont
I left a voice message for Senator Leahy’s office on 4/20/21 complaining about the extreme noise pollution being generated at that moment by the F-35s. I received an email back from Leahy’s office on 4/22, to which I responded. Both emails are copied here. I also spoke on the phone with John Tracy in Senator Leahy’s office, and at least he agreed to watch the new film, Jet Line. We must all continue to bombard the offices of our federal and state elected officials with messages describing the impact of the F-35s on our lives and demanding that the F-35s be removed from our city. They want us to think that nothing can be done about the F-35s’ presence here, but that just isn’t so. It will take our persistent, loud, and thoughtful complaining to start to get some action.
1) My email to Senator Leahy of 4/22/21 in response to his email of 4/22/21 (see below)
Dear Senator Leahy —
It appears that you have worked very hard to avoid having any awareness of the damage the F-35s are causing in our community. The suffering and the degradation of our quality of life here in Burlington are extreme and are entirely unnecessary.
Vermont’s biggest draw has been its peacefulness and natural beauty. The F-35s are destroying those qualities and putting our tourism industry in jeopardy. I work with UVM students who tell me they don’t understand why the F-35s are allowed to fly here. Some of them have told me they are discouraging their younger friends from considering UVM because Burlington is no longer a pleasant place to live.
The F-35s have robbed of us our right to quietly enjoy our homes. They prevent us, at random times beyond our control, from thinking, from conversing, from sleeping, and from relaxing. They are causing hearing damage, tinnitus, increased anxiety, high blood pressure, and many other medical problems for hundreds if not thousands of residents. Our youngest residents are the most vulnerable to the long-term consequences of the erroneous deployment of the F-35s here.
You speak of noise mitigation by somehow spending money on our homes, but the F-35 noise is so loud and of such a low frequency that no material can effectively mitigate it. It doesn’t just come through our windows (mine are new and double-glazed, which doesn’t help) — it comes through the walls and through the roofs of our homes. It cuts through everything, including our bodies. My dog, who is quite deaf, is terrorized whenever the F-35s fly over. She feels the vibration through her body and acts as if she thinks it’s the end of the world. Her resulting anxiety is very high and I’m sure this will shorten her life.
The F-35s do not belong in a heavily populated area. Our military knows that. It’s hard to understand why you don’t know that. And they don’t need to be here. They should have their own airstrip in an unpopulated area if they should exist at all. (Many say they should not exist at all, that they are a huge and grotesquely expensive failure, but that is not my argument here).
Contrary to your implication, VTANG could continue to serve us quite capably without the F-35 being based in Burlington. Build an airstrip somewhere in the country and let the pilots and technicians commute out to them when they must be flown or serviced. Create more jobs for Vermonters with that new construction.
Your suggestion that the Vermont Air National Guard should be allowed to destroy our communities because the Air National Guard betters our communities is utterly and totally nonsensical.
There is no justification for the F-35s being in Burlington. They are offensive weaponry that do not protect us here in any manner. In fact they provide a target for foreign super powers. There is now a good reason for adversaries to drop bombs on our community. We could easily be another Pearl Harbor.
And, please, let’s have no more of that absurd story about the F-16s defending us on 9/11, since none of the hijacked airliners were intercepted. Had our F-16s been based in a rural area closer to NYC, rather than up here in Burlington, they probably could have intercepted the hijacked airliners. Of course I have no idea how that would have helped. It’s hard to imagine they would have shot the airliners, all filled with passengers, out of the air, and the terrorist hijackers s who were on suicide missions would not have followed any orders to change course. They would have happily collided with the F-16s over the NYC area — the resulting death and destruction would have made their point.
Have you watched the new 12-minute film Jet Line? Would you please do that? It will begin to show you the kind of suffering the F-35s are causing. Here is a link: https://jetlinefilm.com/
One might argue (and some already do) that the people being harmed here are the sensitive ones, but that is no defense. There is a concept in personal injury law known as the eggshell skull rule. Under that rule, the sensitivity of a plaintiff / victim cannot serve as a defense. The offending actor takes his victims as he finds them. If a substantial percentage of residents under the flight path of the F-35s at Burlington are “sensitive” because they are adversely impacted by the extreme noise the F-35s create, that changes nothing. We are being injured by their extreme noise pollution. Under the law, our sensitivity (if that’s what it is) is not a defense for those inflicting the damage.
In fact, your job is to protect your constituents who most need protection, especially the sensitive and otherwise most in need of protection, not condemn us to suffering. And most of the victims of the F-35 noise pollution are the most economically disadvantaged in the area. Winooski and the areas nearest the airport house those with the lowest incomes in the area, including the largest concentrations of our minority residents. The impacts of the F-35s are on those least able to deal with them and least able to escape them.
I cannot relocate. As a Burlington property manager, I am frequently called to fix problems at properties in town at random times during the day and night. If I move out of Burlington I will not be able to do my job. And with the current real estate market, unless you can put up cash to purchase a home in Chittenden County, your purchase offer will fail. And why should I have to relocate? And how would that help my neighbors who are suffering as much as I am and more?
Please watch Jet Line. Please listen to your constituents who are suffering. Please make the suffering stop — The F-35s must be removed to a base outside of the most populated part of our state.
I look forward to continuing this dialogue with you. With all due respect, you are absolutely on the wrong side of the issue this time, Senator Leahy. You are tarnishing your otherwise stellar reputation, and if you continue to support the presence of the F-35s here you will one day be known as the man who ruined Burlington. Is that what you want as your legacy?
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Frank B. Haddleton
Attorney at Law
Author of Walker’s Key
2) Senator Leahy’s email to me of 4/22/21 in response to a voice message I left for him on 4/20/21
Dear Mr. Haddleton,:
Thank you for contacting me about the F-35 in our community. I appreciate hearing your concerns, even when I do not share your views. The health and safety of our communities are very important to me, and I always have and always will work on Vermonters’ behalf in the Senate. I supported the basing of the F-35 because I believe the Vermont Air National Guard betters our communities.
Burlington International Airport is leading an effort to implement a community noise mitigation plan, which includes agreements with the Air National Guard about operational use of their aircraft, as well as funding from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for its plan for sound mitigation in buildings. To further help communities adjust, I created a fund in the Fiscal Year 2020 Appropriations bill that, for the first time, allows the Department of Defense to assist communities and the FAA with noise mitigation plans. You can follow the noise mitigation efforts of Burlington International Airport on their dedicated website, http://www.btvsound.com .
Generations of Vermonters have supported the Vermont Air National Guard through many aircraft with many different sounds, because the Guard always supports our communities in times of need. The COVID-19 crisis has been no different. The Guard deployed their engineers to build an Alternate Health Care Facility in just a matter of days, supported hospital staff with medical personnel at UVM Medical Center, and distributed food boxes to thousands of struggling families. The Vermont Air National Guard is an indispensable part of our community, but they are also a fighter wing— one of the best—and the F-35 is the future of Air Force fighter wings. The Vermont Air National Guard that we know and count on is now a part of that future, and I know that Vermonters, during this crisis and otherwise, are proud to call them our fellow Vermonters.
Again, thank you for contacting me.
United States Senator