The EA-18G Growler provides critical electronic intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data to other joint forces.                                 Boeing photo

The EA-18G Growler provides critical electronic intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data to other joint forces. Boeing photo

Growlers making their presence known over Saanich

Noise from fighter aircraft may be related to athmospheric conditions, says U.S. Navy spokesperson.

A Saanich councillor wants to learn more about recent U.S. military aircraft operations that have sounded louder than usual.

Coun. Fred Haynes said the issue needs some attention and information. “[Saanich residents] report it happens in mornings and evenings when it disturbs sleep or other aspects of their day-to-day lives,” he said.

“Currently, I understand it is linked to test flights or training flights by [U.S.] air force personnel. I look forward to receiving more details. The ‘noise-scape’ of Saanich is important for us all.”

Haynes made these comments Sunday after the Snowbirds had jetted across the skies of Greater Victoria earlier this week to give locals their share of swoosh and swish ringing above their heads.

But the show is not over, as some Greater Victoria residents have reported hearing familiar jet rumblings from ongoing U.S. military exercises, a development that has some started to sound the alarm.

“On the long weekend, I found them to be not only numerous, but louder than I can recall,” said Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen, who, like other locals, feels the noise has escalated to almost painful decibel levels.

The noise is coming from a U.S. military aircraft known as the EA-18G Growler, (EA stands for electronic attack) a modified version of the F/A-18F Super Hornet fighter jet, designed for service on aircraft carriers. Like their technical name suggests, Growlers provide critical electronic intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data to other joint force aircraft around the world.

Today, the U.S. Naval Air Station on Whidbey Island – about 60 kilometers southeast across the water from Victoria – is home to 82 fully operational Growlers, with another 36 planned to join the flock in the coming years.

Though not much has changed in terms of the aircraft’s design or overall training practices, noise emanating from Growlers can be impacted greatly by atmospheric conditions, said Mike Welding, public affairs officer with the U.S. Navy.

“Different times of the year, depending on what’s happening in the atmosphere, the noise may carry farther,” he said, noting the peak times when noise is likely heard or felt is during a known Growler operation called Field Carrier Landing Practice, described simply as close-in, repetitive training.

Typically, Welding said these practice sessions can go on for 45 minutes at a time, with a small break in between, and maybe 15 minutes later, another group of Growlers go in. Naturally, the type of training is specific to the Growlers’ intended purpose and design, notably aircraft carrier operations.

“That type of training is for fleet squadrons, which is tied to aircraft carrier deployment schedules,” he said, adding Growler pilots have to complete this training before they get underway on an aircraft carrier. “That’s what the training does, it prepares them to do that type of activity, which is a very challenging thing to do.”

Welding pointed out people may also hear the aircraft flying out to a military operating area over the Olympic Peninsula, and off the coast. Typically, but not always, the route over there is between Sequim and Port Angeles.

“Generally, by the time they’re over the coast, they’re at 15,000 or 16,000 feet.”

The U.S. Navy is trying to reduce the Growler’s noise output, mostly with technological tweaks to the aircraft. One such attempt was the installation of chevrons on the Growler’s exhaust nozzles, a device that decreased the noise slightly, but also had a degradation effect on the performance of the aircraft, which U.S. Navy brass deemed as “unacceptable.”

Ironically, the Growler is still quieter than its predecessor, the EA-6B Prowler, with at least 8 db lower. Growlers also climb away faster than Prowlers, reducing their noise footprint overall.

The U.S. Navy continues to work on ways to lower noise levels.

“They have not shelved that idea yet, they are looking at using the chevrons with different materials, so they’re still working on that,” Welding said.

Other strategies in reducing the Growler’s growl over local shores is the Magic Carpet, a software being implemented on all Growlers that will help pilots land the aircraft on aircraft carriers, potentially shortening their training schedules.

“If that bears fruit and pans out, that’s going to impact the operations that they conduct now. Will it reduce that? That’s all being studied as well,” Welding added.

Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen says not much else can be done, other than monitoring the noise and continue reporting it.

“It really is beyond our jurisdiction [municipally] to do anything about it, other than what people have done, and what I’ve done as to provide some feedback to the impact of the noise,” he said. “It’s a matter that the federal government would want to take up with them.”

Frustrated residents can also voice their noise concerns with Growlers via the NAS Whidbey Island automated comment line (1-360-257-6665).

With files from Wolf Depner, Saanich News

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Staff and volunteers at the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea were disappointed by the theft of an educational porpoise skull likely taken on Jan. 8. (Courtesy of Tina Kelly)
Well-loved porpoise skull stolen from Sidney aquarium

Skull had been used for youth and visitor education and outreach for years

A female prisoner sent Langford police officers a thank-you card after she spent days in their custody. (Twitter/West Shore RCMP)
Woman gives Victoria-area jail 4.5-star review in handwritten card to police after arrest

‘We don’t often get thank you cards from people who stay with us, but this was sure nice to see’: RCMP

The Starbucks in Langford’s Westshore Town Centre is one of almost 300 storefronts that the U.S. coffee giant will be shutting across Canada by the end of March. (Google Maps)
Langford’s Westshore Town Centre Starbucks to close permanently

Popular coffee chain to close 300 storefronts across Canada by end of March

An Oak Bay Police officer handed out five tickets for “fail to obey stop sign” and two tickets for using a cell phone while driving, all within two hours at King George Terrace on Jan. 11. (Oak Bay Police Twitter)
Man confronts unmasked group at Oak Bay Marina

Oak Bay police issue plenty of tickets in short King George Terrace visit

Registered nurse Sammy Mullally displayed a tray of supplies to be used by a drug addict at the Insite safe injection clinic in Vancouver, B.C., in 2011. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Councillors call on Saanich to address overdose crisis, explore options for safe consumption sites

‘There’s no vaccine for this problem,’ new action is needed, councillors say

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

An elk got his antlers caught up in a zip line in Youbou over the weekend. (Conservation Officer Service Photo)
Elk rescued from zip line in Youbou on Vancouver Island

Officials urge people to manage items on their property that can hurt animals

A Trail man has a lucky tin for a keepsake after it saved him from a stabbing last week. File photo
Small tin in Kootenay man’s jacket pocket saved him from stabbing: RCMP

The man was uninjured thanks to a tin in his jacket

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chantel Moore, 26, was fatally shot by a police officer during a wellness check in the early morning of June 4, 2020, in Edmundston, N.B. (Facebook)
Frustrated family denied access to B.C. Indigenous woman’s police shooting report

Independent investigation into B.C. woman’s fatal shooting in New Brunswick filed to Crown

Delta Police Constable Jason Martens and Dezi, a nine-year-old German Shepherd that recently retired after 10 years with Delta Police. (Photo submitted)
Dezi, a Delta police dog, retires on a high note after decade of service

Nine-year-old German Shepherd now fights over toys instead of chasing down bad guys

Nurses collect samples from a patient in a COVID suspect room in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
5 British Columbians under 20 years old battled COVID-19 in ICU in recent weeks

Overall hospitalizations have fallen but young people battling the virus in hospital has increased

Canada released proposed regulations Jan. 2 for the fisheries minister to maintain Canada’s major fish stocks at sustainable levels and recover those at risk. (File photo)
New laws would cement DFO accountability to depleted fish stocks

Three B.C. salmon stocks first in line for priority attention under proposed regulations

Trees destroyed a Shoreacres home during a wind storm Jan. 13, 2021. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay woman flees just before tree crushes house

Pamala DeRosa is thankful to be alive

Gin, one of the Kantymirs’ two sheep. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)
Sheep start up ATV, sit in cars and go for walks in Salmon Arm

Until they bought two sheep, Ken and Karleen Kantymir didin’t realize just how social the animals are

Most Read