March 26, 1999 (Ira Pilgrim)

A Correspondence

Dec. 1, 1986

From: Ira Pilgrim

To: The Commanding General

United States Air Force


I am aware that the Air Force has more important things to do than listening to the complaint of a crotchety old man. However, we are, ostensibly, a country of civilians, at whose pleasure you fine members of the Armed Forces serve. Accordingly, it might be prudent for you not to offend the civilian population any more than is necessary.

I live on a mountain top at 4,000 feet, 20 miles from the coast. I live here, because I enjoy the quiet and, particularly, the absence of people. I welcome visitors, but I resent the intrusion of your noisy jet fighters on my property. The pilots are welcome, if they leave their planes behind. Now I'm not talking about the space above my house, which I am willing to concede to birds and airplanes. What I am talking about is the air space next to my house.

Last summer, while some friends and I were enjoying a lovely summer day, one of your jets roared by going at an incredible speed, less than 100 yards from my house and at my eye level (about 20 feet below my roof top). It scared the hell out of us.

I was so upset that I called both the FAA and the local Air Force Base. The FAA told me that it wasn't their jurisdiction, and the Air Force told me nothing. I had hoped that I had made enough noise so that the local Air Force commander would tell his hotshots to stay away from my house because there's some crotchety SOB over there who likes to make waves.

Today it happened again; same altitude, same speed. Now don't ask me to identify the plane because I can't. I do know that there are no civilian aircraft that can fly that fast and that low.

Please understand that I don't want to make trouble for some pilot. I was young once too, and know what it's like. Besides, I don't want to get their backs up, because, next thing you know one of them might accidentally drop one of those firecrackers that he carries.

However, at this point in time, I feel that my life and security are in more danger from my defenders than from my enemies. So please whisper to your people to fly their planes somewhere else and stay the hell away from my house. I am at 39.4830 North Latitude and Longitude 123.2849.

Thank you, Sincerely, Ira Pilgrim

24 December 1986

From: Department of the Air Force, Hq. U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.

To: Ira Pilgrim

Thank you for your letter of December 1, 1986, to General Welch concerning low flying aircraft. I have been asked to respond to you on behalf of the Chief of Staff..........

The aircrews flying aircraft on the routes are practicing low level tactical navigation and simulated combat maneuvers -- skills critical to their survival in time of hostilities. Training at low altitude has become an absolute necessity for our aircrews due to the improving capabilities of the air defense radars and surface-to-air missiles possessed by our potential enemies. The maneuvers being performed are very similar to those successfully used in the retaliatory air strike against Libya earlier this year

My office investigated your complaint as personally directed by General Welch. The route involved is controlled by the U.S. Navy. I have referred your letter to the appropriate office of the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Air Warfare for further investigation.

Sincerely, Gerald V. West, Colonel, USAF


From: Ira Pilgrim

To: Col. Gerald V. West, USAF

Dear Colonel West:

Thank you for informing me about what those airplanes were doing flying next to my house. It really set me straight. I had assumed, as in the days of World War II, that a pilot who buzzed a structure was trying to demonstrate how close he could come to it without actually hitting it. To know that the pilot was practicing "low level tactical navigation and simulated combat maneuvers" is a great comfort.

Knowing that the routes were planned by the DOD and FAA goes a long way toward explaining why a route was taken right next to my house, which was built about seven years ago. One can scarcely expect those agencies to have the most up to date reconnaissance photographs that are available to the Mendocino County Tax Assessor.

Telling me that it was probably a Navy plane also went a long way toward explaining why it was flying so close to my house. One can hardly expect a sailor or a marine to distinguish a three story house, with thirty 4 x 7 foot windows and an aluminum roof, from a grove of oak trees. It had never occurred to me that a diarrhea-green fighter plane could belong to the Navy. In my day, everything naval was battleship-gray, black and/or blue. I forgot that the Marines were part of the Navy since their P.R. people downplay that.

I appreciate your forwarding a copy of my letter to the appropriate naval authority. I hope that they give it as much attention as you have. Despite my cynicism, please understand that I really do appreciate what you have done on my behalf.

Thank you, Sincerely, Ira Pilgrim

13 January 1987

From: Department of the Navy, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Washington, D.C.

To: Ira Pilgrim

Dear Mr. Pilgrim:

Thank you for your letter of December 1, 1986, about low flying military aircraft near your home. Your letter was referred to this office for response by the Department of the Air Force since VR-1261, the military training route near your home, is controlled by the Navy.

Military training routes are carefully designed by the Department of Defense and the Federal Aviation Administration to minimize hazards to general aviation, impact on the environment, and inconvenience to the public. Also, pilots are specifically briefed to avoid populated areas while undergoing specialized and necessary low altitude navigation training. Despite these considerations, occasional overflights of populated areas do occur.

VR-1261 is controlled by Commander, Light Attack Wing, U.S. Pacific Fleet at Naval Air Station, Lemoore, California. The route provides Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy aircrews with valuable high speed, low altitude training in mountainous terrain. Aircraft on VR-1261 fly at 500 feet above the surface and should avoid any residence by 500 feet vertically or laterally. On December 1, 1986, two Navy A-7 attack aircraft trained on the route. We believe one of these aircraft was the one you observed that day. The controlling agency for VR-1261 has been informed of your concern.

The Department of the Navy wishes to minimize any annoyance associated with our national defense training. Please contact this office directly if we can be of further assistance.

Sincerely, D. Huff, Captain, USN, Head, Airspace, Airfields and Air Traffic Control Branch

Jan. 24, 1987

From: Ira Pilgrim

To: Capt. D. Huff, Airspace, Airfields and Air Traffic Control Branch, Department of Naval Operations

Washington, D.C.

Dear Captain Huff:

Thank you very much for your reply to my letter. It is gratifying to know that the Navy is concerned about undue annoyances to the civilian population.

I am particularly appreciative that you took the time to locate the flight and to tell me about it. I also assume that your action will obviate such flights in the future; in which case I am extremely grateful.

For your information, I am enclosing two topographic maps which show the route of the flights (there were two in two consecutive years). It also shows the location of my house. The house probably had not been built when the routes were established, which accounts for the problem. Further, the plane was flying 300 feet(+/- 50 ft.) above ground (I have measured it exactly since I pump water from the ground level)) and approximately 300 feet from my house. The house is 100 yards in from a 2000 foot sandstone cliff. It is a three story structure with an aluminum roof and is very conspicuous from the air, provided that an aerial reconnaissance is made. I have nothing but admiration for the incredibly skillful flying, but it is frightening to have a jet fly this close.

I would appreciate your forwarding this information to the appropriate authority, with instructions to avoid that route. Further, much home building has gone on in this area in the last few years, and perhaps it is time to re-evaluate the routing of low flying aircraft.

Thank you, Sincerely, Ira Pilgrim

13 January 1987

From: D. Huff, Captain, USN, Head, Airspace, Airfields and Air Traffic Control Branch, Department of the Navy, Washington, D.C.

To: Ira Pilgrim

Thank you for your letter of January 24, 1987, with more specific information as to the location of your home. As you requested, a copy of your letter with accompanying topographic maps has been forwarded to the controlling agency of VR-1261, the route which lies near your residence.

As indicated in my previous letter, military training routes are established after considerable study and expense and are not easily altered. The presence of a training route does not release the pilot from the requirement to avoid residences by a minimum of 500 feet. Training routes are reevaluated annually to assess impacts on the public and the environment.

Your concerns are appreciated. Feel free to contact us in the future if you have further questions.

Sincerely, D. Huff, Captain, USN, Head, Airspace, Airfields and Air Traffic Control Branch

There have been no more training flight close to my home.

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