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Dutch pilots to leave skies

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Villagers who suffer from the jet noise in the north end of town, and all those with sensitive ears only have to put up with the ruckus a little bit longer. The Dutch pilots who have been training at the Springfield-Beckley Airport with the 178th Fighter Wing of the Ohio Air National Guard will move to Arizona soon after September 2010.

The move was announced on Sunday, May 2, on the Web site and was confirmed this Tuesday by am Air National Guard spokesman.

Soon after the Dutch joined American pilots already training at the airport five years ago, some villagers complained of the increased noise, especially over the north end of the village. While the pilots were officially guided to bypass Yellow Springs, weather conditions sometimes caused incursions over the village, Commander Mike Roberts stated in a News article several months ago. The Dutch planes were also considered noisier than their American counterparts due to a different engine.

According to an article on the Web site, the Dutch had trained for 18 years in Tucson and came to the Springfield location when Tucson was already full with pilots from other countries. The Dutch have been at the Springfield airport for five years, training alongside U.S. Air Force pilots.

The U.S. pilots will be leaving at the end of June, according to Senior Master Sergeant Joe Stahl, public affairs representative for the 178th Fighter Wing, on Tuesday. While the Dutch pilots’ contract runs out the end of September, the contract may be extended a few more months. The Dutch will return to Tucson in January 2011, according to the Web site.

The 178th Wing has no more plans for training pilots, according to Stahl. While the unit attempted to find new units from other countries for training, those attempts were unsuccessful, partly due to the economy, he said.

“Our mission will be changing,” Stahl said, stating that while he has heard rumors, there is no clarity about what the new mission might be. Currently, the unit’s new mission is being determined by those in higher levels of the Air Force, he said, also stating that there is some anxiety among the unit’s employees about their futures.

“A lot of people are concerned about jobs,” he said, estimating that about 1,000 work at the airport.

According to a Dutch spokesperson, weather and economics played a role in their decision to return to Tucson. The more stable warm weather allowed the pilots to train on a regular basis, according to Colonel Peter Tanking, chief of the Royal Netherlands Air Force Fighter Branch, who estimated that about 10 pilots and 14 planes would move to Tucson.

According to Stahl, cost also played a part, because with the American pilots leaving the Springfield base, the Dutch would have had to bear the operational costs alone. However, in Tucson, pilots from Poland, Singapore, Norway and Morocco are also training, so costs can be shared.

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