Arrival of F-35s at Civil Airport Sparks Noise Concerns in Norway
From New Year's Day onwards, a local hub with 800,000 passengers per year will share its runway with noisy US-made fighter jets, which represent the most expensive procurement in Norway's military history. Politicians, neighbours and airlines alike believe the situation is unsustainable.
Starting from 1 January 2022, Norway's brand new F-35s will be deployed at Evenes civil airport, instead of Bodø military airport, which has been used by NATO for four decades. Starting from 2023, the airport will also host new P-8 Poseidon surveillance aircraft.
The problem, however, is that the airport, with 800,000 passengers per year, is not designed to cope with the loud noise from the F-35. This has sparked heated discussions on whether employees and passengers can safely stay at the airport, while the fighter jets will have departures around the clock, 365 days a year.
MP Geir Jørgensen of the Reds Party argued that the decision in unjustifiable and called on Defence Minister Odd-Roger Enoksen and the Armed Forces to postpone the relocation until necessary measures are taken.
“The Armed Forces and Avinor [Norway's civil airport operator] must secure Evenes before the airport can be used by the F-35. Evenes is an important regional airport, a hub for air traffic in the north. We don't accept that civil aviation is affected because the Armed Forces haven't done their job. The the Armed Forces must set things straight. They cannot put people's hearing and health at risk in this way”, Jørgensen told national broadcaster NRK.
Earlier, airlines, too, expressed their concern about the noise levels.
Measurements by the short-haul airline Widerøe clocked noise levels up to 138 decibels, which is not permitted, as it may cause permanent hearing damage and tinnitus. Widerøe communications director Silje Brandvoll called this risk “unacceptable”. Furthermore, since all air traffic will be stopped during F-35 missions, which will have top priority, major delays throughout all of northern Norway may occur, according to the company which reportedly considers dropping Evenes altogether.
Major airlines SAS and Norwegian are also concerned.
“We share Widerøe's concern about noise, and expect measures to be implemented to shield the passengers,” SAS press manager John Eckhoff said.
Norwegian said they the company was aware of the challenges at Evenes and is following the case closely.
Evenes Airport Manager Geir-Olav Skogstad admitted that more permanent anti-noise measures must be in place. So far, about 500 parking spaces have been cordoned off and signs have been put up keep the public out of the noise zone. A warning system has also been established.
Neighbours have also voiced their fears of contentious noise levels.
According to the Armed Forces itself, there will be around 800 annual departures by fighter aircraft at Evenes, of which the vast majority will be F-35s.
8 April 2021, 06:09 GMT
Remarkably, Denmark, another major user of F-35 jets, ran into similar noise problems, including vocal complaints from neighbours of the Skrydstrup air base.
Denmark and Norway settled for 27 and 52 F-35s jets respectively, with both deals touted as the largest in their military history.