? F-35 strike fighters will continue to operate in the manner they have been since 2009 at Eglin AFB, Fla., including flying under some limitations to reduce noise over the adjoining city of Valparaiso, announced service officials. This decision is the no-action alternative, one of nine options included in the supplemental analysis that the Air Force conducted to determine the environmental impact of operating up to 59 F-35s at Eglin as part of the joint F-35 schoolhouse. The late June announcement reinforces the Air Force’s 2009 decision to bed down the F-35s at Eglin and restrict the use of some of the base’s runways, Mike Spaits, Eglin’s environmental affairs spokesman, told Air Force Magazine on July 7. “It imposes … restrictions on the old 01/19 runway. So where we may have had up to 33 takeoffs and landings per day going over Valparaiso, now we’re at an average of about one per day, which is allowed over the course of 365 days per year,” he said. The no-action alternative essentially means, “OK, you guys have been flying like this since 2009, we’re going to leave it like it is,” he added. Runway 12/30 will remain the primary runway for Eglin’s F-35 operations, according to the service’s release. (See also Lightning Strikes Twice.)
The Air Force will begin its 71st annual Operation Christmas Drop on Dec. 4. The weeklong exercise is a yearly tradition that delivers supplies such as food, fishing equipment, school books, and clothes to remote islands in the Pacific. It is the longest-running Department of Defense humanitarian mission.