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F-35 public hearings for Tucson concluded; comments still accepted

Lt. Col. Jon Wheeler, an F-35 instructor pilot assigned to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., discusses the aircraft’s capabilities with an interested member of the Tucson community Feb. 22 at a public hearing at the Holiday Inn near Tucson International Airport. Officials from the U.S. Air Force, Air Education and Training Command, and the 162nd Fighter Wing were available to answer questions and encourage public comment on the proposed basing of an F-35A Pilot Training Center at the Airport.  (U.S. Air Force photo/1st Lt. Angela Walz)

Lt. Col. Jon Wheeler, an F-35 instructor pilot assigned to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., discusses the aircraft’s capabilities with an interested member of the Tucson community Feb. 22 at a public hearing at the Holiday Inn near Tucson International Airport. Officials from the U.S. Air Force, Air Education and Training Command, and the 162nd Fighter Wing were available to answer questions and encourage public comment on the proposed basing of an F-35A Pilot Training Center at the Airport. (U.S. Air Force photo/1st Lt. Angela Walz)

TUCSON, Ariz. -- The U.S. Air Force hosted about 300 Southern Arizonans over the course of three public hearings, Feb. 21-23, to solicit comments on a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed basing of F-35A Lightning II aircraft at Tucson International Airport.

Since late 2009, the 162nd Fighter Wing at the airport has been the focus of an environmental study to determine what possible impacts the Air Force's fifth-generation fighter would have on Southern Arizona. The draft statement, released to the public Jan. 20, is available for review at www.F-35ATrainingEIS.com.  

Other potential locations for a new F-35 Pilot Training Center include the Boise Air Terminal Airport Air Guard Station, also known as Gowen Field, Idaho; Holloman Air Force Base, N.M.; and Luke Air Force Base, Ariz.

The Air Force's Preferred Alternative is to base 72 F-35A training aircraft at Luke Air Force Base. However, no decisions regarding the proposal will be made until after the environmental impact analysis process is complete.

"These hearings gave the public three venues at which to interact with Air Force and Air Guard representatives and provide oral comments about the draft that will be address and included in the Final EIS," said David Martin, the Air Education and Training Command's F-35A Training EIS project manager.

"We've seen a good turn out and we've received many useful comments from Tucson, and even though the opportunity to make oral comments has passed the public is still welcome to submit comments in writing," he said.

All comments on the Draft EIS must be postmarked or received by March 14, 2012, for consideration in the Final EIS. Written comments on the Draft EIS may be submitted to:

David Martin, Air Force Contractor, and Kim Fornof
HQ AETC/A7CPP
266 F Street West, Bldg. 901
Randolph AFB, TX 78150-4319
Fax: 210-652-5649
Email: aetc.a7cp.inbox@us.af.mil  

The Final EIS, due to be completed this summer, will reflect updates on the draft based on comments submitted during the Draft EIS period. Once the Final EIS is published the public will have a 30-day period to submit comments on that document. After this period, the Air Force will issue a Record of Decision about which location will host the proposed F-35 Pilot Training Center.