Protests Drown Out F-16s
What's louder than an F-16 in full burner? Well, besides an F-14, it's the collective voices of Melbourne (Fla.) International Airport neighbors protesting a military flight school next door. Residents near the airport shouted out Aerogroup Inc.'s operation at Melbourne saying the training provided F-16 pilots of the Royal Netherlands Air Force was too noisy and dangerous. There is some question about who was actually in danger, however. "We're still getting death threats over the phone," Aerogroup CEO Mark Daniels told Florida Today. The Dutch military apparently decided not to risk an escalation of the fight and cancelled a second training session. Aerogroup had hoped to ink a five-year deal to train the Dutch pilots and buy its own F-16s to train other NATO pilots. Company officials claimed they airport officials "welcomed them with open arms" for the estimated $30 million in economic benefits. But the welcome was soon worn out by hundreds of angry neighbors brandishing petitions and lobbying local politicians. "They were truly a noisy aircraft and truly incompatible with our community," airport executive director Jim Johnson told the Orlando Sentinel. Aerogroup officials said they are moving operations but it's not clear where they will go.