FARMINGTON – A public hearing has been set for June 5 on a proposal to add a new fighter jet to the Burlington Air Guard Station in Vermont, which conducts missions in western Maine airspace.

The Air Force last week scheduled the hearing at University of Maine at Farmington after facing complaints from Mainers about why initial hearings on the plan were scheduled to take place only in Vermont. Among those who raised concerns were Maine’s two Republican U.S. senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.

An open house will be held from 5 to 6 p.m. in Roberts Learning Center, Lincoln Auditorium on the college campus in Farmington, with Air Force personnel available to answer questions about the plan.

The formal public hearing will be from 6 to 8 p.m., when Air Force officials will present details and gather public comments about the plan’s draft environmental impact statement.

The plan seeks to make changes to military flights over parts of Oxford, Franklin and Somerset counties, and local groups opposed to the proposal have raised concerns about its potential negative effects on these communities.

Among the residents opposed to the plan is Tom Mauzaka, who lives in Strong and is retired from the Air Force after serving 32 years as a navigator on military aircraft.

Mauzaka, 61, is concerned the F-35 is much louder than the military aircraft now flying in Maine’s airspace. He said the plan to add the fighter jet will also affect another proposal seeking to lower the minimum altitude that military jets are allowed to fly.

That other proposal, which has been in the planning stages for several years, would lower the flight ceiling from 7,000 feet to 500 feet.

Mauzaka said he is worried about the negative effects the two proposals will have on quiet Maine communities and forests.

“If you ever had a jet fly over your head at 500 feet, you know that it’s a pretty significant occurrence,” he said.

The proposal to add the F-35 jets is looking at several sites nationwide and considers the station in Burlington as one of the two preferred options, according to the draft environmental statement filed by the Air Force last month.

The public hearing process is a required step as the Air Force works to finalize the environmental impact statement for its effort to establish two operational bases for the F-35 Lighting II fighter jet.

Public comments about the preliminary study on the plan’s effect on the environment will be gathered at the hearings and via written submissions. The Air Force will review the data and is expected to make a final decision on submitting the study this fall.

Morning Sentinel Staff Writer David F. Robinson can be contacted at 861-9287 or at:

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