Letter: Navy has said El Centro better for landing practices


Navy League spokesman Steve Bristow noted in his July 9 letter to the editor that the Outlying Field Coupeville “is the finest representative practice setting in our nation.”

That statement does not comport with Navy records.

According to a July 12, 2017 Navy document “Growler EIS Preferred Alternative FCLP Distribution; Administrative Record, Page GRR00121559,” the best site for Growler field carrier landing practices is El Centro, Calif..

Per that report, “The unmodified carrier landing pattern at NAF El Centro and the unique at-sea ambient lighting and environmental conditions of nearby San Clemente Island provided higher quality of training than could be achieved at either Ault Field or Coupeville, reducing the need to maximize the use of Coupeville.”

Reasons for not using El Centro really boil down to money — basically what amounts to the cost of several or so Growlers taking precedence over the community. OLF Coupeville does not even meet military standards, as revealed in https://citizensofebeysreserve.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/OLF-Deficiencies.pdf .

Bristow also argues that OLF Coupeville use was not an encroachment on Central Whidbey. However, OLF use for FCLPs did not begin until 1969. The community was established long before that. Even Admirals Cove was nearly sold out at that time.

It appears Mr. Bristow was mistaken there as well.

He further asserts that “the Navy, its mission, personnel and families are great neighbors and some of the most vibrant members of our community, as they have been for many decades.” That’s one Steve got right, but it has nothing to do with the un-neighborly decision by the D.C. brass to move nearly all the FCLPs from Ault to the OLF.

And recall that, in 2005, the Navy informed the community and developers to plan on just 6,120 Growler operations per year at OLF Coupeville. The Navy reaffirmed that usage rate in Superior Court in 2015.

Folks trusted the Navy and development proceeded accordingly for two decades. Then, in 2018, the Navy thumbed its nose at that commitment, quadrupling OLF operations. I think most folks would agree that misleading the community and dishonoring a commitment is not what good neighbors do.

The Navy may have lost its bearings here and shot itself in the foot. It is not too late to fix that. The FCLPs need to go to El Centro where they are wanted and pilots would have the actual best practice venue.

Robert Wilbur

President of COER