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Navy jet crash: 'buffer zones' sought to protect neighborhoods

April 07, 2012|By David Zucchino
  • An Air Force F-22 raptor takes off from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, where officials have expanded a buffer zone around the base to protect neighborhoods from mishaps.
An Air Force F-22 raptor takes off from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia,… (Gary C. Knapp / Associated…)

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- Municipalities in the Hampton Roads area, which is near the site of Friday’s U.S. Navy fighter jet crash in Virginia Beach, have bought land around a nearby Air Force base in hopes of minimizing damage from potential military air disasters.

The Daily Press reports that officials have attempted to expand a safety buffer zone south and west of Langley Air Force Base in Hampton to keep development from encroaching on the base’s landing and takeoff areas. Langley is less than 20 miles from Naval Air Station Oceana, where a U.S. Navy F/A-18D Hornet took off before slamming into an apartment complex two miles from the base.

Seven people, including the plane’s two crewmen, were injured, but no one was reported killed. The Navy said the Hornet had experienced a "catastrophic mechanical malfunction" before the two airmen parachuted to safety.

In 2010, a Joint Land Use Study financed by four municipalities bordering Langley recommended spending about $12 million to buy 31 acres to extend the air base’s buffer zone, the Daily Press reported.  The cities of Hampton, Newport News and Paquoson, along with York County, have requested state and federal funds to purchase the land.

In November, Virginia Beach bought nearly 800 acres of woods and farmland to protect Naval Air Station Oceana from encroaching development.  City officials have said they will commit $15 million a year to help stop development around the base.

The Virginia Beach purchase is considered a model of community action to protect local residents and military flight crews, Bruce Sturk, Hampton’s director of federal facilities support, told the newspaper.

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