11/4 UPDATE: This is the first day for Navy flight training at NASA’s Wallops Island Flight Facility. NASA and the Navy will mark the official opening with a special ceremony.
The Navy installed runway lighting and markings to simulate the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, as well as poured concrete pads for an Improved Fresnel Lens Optical Landing System (IFLOLS) and a work station for Landing Signal Officers (LSOs).
ACCOMACK COUNTY—After struggling to find a location for more than a decade, Navy turboprop pilots will now train at NASA Wallops Island Flight Facility near Chincoteague on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
Within weeks, the Navy plans to launch Field Carrier Landing Practice operations, conducting up to 20,000 touch and goes per year with its E-2-C Hawkeye and E-2 Greyhound aircraft based at Naval Station Norfolk’s Chambers Field.
The training is needed to prepare pilots for making tailhook landings aboard aircraft carriers at sea.
The move to Wallops was necessitated following years of capacity issues at Chambers Field in Chesapeake forced the Navy to move the FCLP operations to Florida.
Pilots say they're excited for the move.
“This is going to be a great opportunity for us, bouncing, doing FCLP’s at the Wallops Flight Facility is going to give us the opportunity to fly the exact patterns and altitudes that we fly at the carrier,” said LT Dave Wiltshire, a pilot and Landing Signals Officer for the VAW-120. “That’s something that we’ve been unable to do in the Hampton Roads area due to noise abatement restrictions.”
The Wallops Island facility is about 90 miles from Norfolk, but only a 20-minute flight, which is far better than having to go to Florida for the training.
“It’s closer to home,” said Wiltshire. “Parts will be more available and it will be more convenient than going all the way down to Florida to get this quality of training.”
Nearby residents welcome the addition.
”I think it's great. Anything that allows this facility to be utilized more will do nothing but promote our economy,” said Accomack County resident Randy Merritt. “We need all the help we can get. I think it’s fantastic.”
Linwood Williams lives across the street from the Wallops front gate says he isn’t worried about additional noise.
“It’s alright as far as I know,” he said. “It don’t bother me.”