Since the 1950’s, the Vermont Air National Guard base across from Burlington International Airport in South Burlington has hosted several aircraft, from P-51 Mustangs to early supersonic jets, and even the famous — and really noisy — F-4 Phantom.
Members of Vermont’s Air National Guard are continuing to fly F-35 fighter jets through drills during the new coronavirus pandemic.
The City of Winooski issued a Q&A with the commander of the 158th Fighter Wing, Col. David W. Shevchik, Jr., answering questions that may be on Vermonters’ minds as they hear the planes from their homes. Many Vermonters are staying home or working from home, per an order from Gov. Phil Scott meant to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
COVID-19 is the official name of the disease related to the coronavirus that first started to affect people in China at the end of 2019 and has since spread across the globe. Vermont reported its first case of COVID-19 in early March.
Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough and breathing trouble. Most develop only mild symptoms. But some people, usually those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal.
Why are the F-35s still flying during the pandemic?
Schevchik said much of it boils down to the Fighter Wing’s responsibility to provide national security. Air Guard members must continue flying operations to maintain federal mission readiness requirements, he said.
“Many aspects of our State and Federal mission cannot be worked from home,” Schevchik wrote. “Currently, we are focused on maintaining a safe work environment so we can protect our team and families.”
While maintenance and operations teams continue flying and maintaining the aircraft, the Fighter Wing’s medical and mission support teams are helping Vermont authorities build alternate health care facilities, maintain ongoing medical operations and manage medical supplies, Schevchik said.
How often can we expect to hear F-35s?
Flight schedules will largely mirror those of the F-16, according to the Q&A. A takeoff will typically consist of four to eight aircraft.
Standard flying operations take place Tuesday through Friday, with takeoffs in both the morning and afternoon. Drills sometimes also happen on weekends, usually during the first Saturday of each month in the morning and afternoon. Once per quarter, a flight will take place on a Sunday afternoon, the commander said.
The Fighter Wing will notify the community through a press release if they are planning any flights outside of this schedule.
How many F-35s are here? And, when are the rest coming?
Vermont has received 15 of its expected 20 F-35 aircraft, Schevchik said. The remaining fighter jets are planned to arrive this summer, and are all anticipated to be in Vermont by September.
More information can be found in the Q&A on the City of Winooski’s website: winooskivt.gov/civicalerts.aspx?AID=356.
Contact Elizabeth Murray at 802-651-4835 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizMurrayBFP.
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