Monday, December 28, 2009

'I thought helicopter was going down'

Readers who closely followed the fight in Washington and Beaufort counties a few years ago over the Navy's flawed plan to place an outlying landing field to train pilots for aircraft carrier landings near an important bird sanctuary will be happy to hear two pieces of good news.

First, Doris Morris, who with a number of other local residents organized the campaign to dissuade the Navy of its wisdom in choosing the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge as a landing field site, has been back up to speed after a terrible, life-threatening auto accident. She was a key player in the OLF debate, and among other things made sure that the news media were aware of developments about the site choice, the possibility of bird-aircraft strikes and how the facility would affect some of the richest farmland in the state.

The second piece of good news is that filmmakers Emily and Blake Scott of Washington, N.C. have won dozens of awards with their films about the Lake Mattamuskeet and the Pungo Lakes National Wildlife Refuges.

Doris sent me a copy of Jeff Hampton's Sunday story in the Norfolk Virginian Pilot about their work. Here's a link.

Emily Scott recognized firsthand the danger not only to large waterfowl that winter in the Pocosin Lakes refuge, but also to the aircraft and the pilots and crew if there were a bird strike.

Hampton wrote:
"Meanwhile, in the late fall of 2006, Emily Scott was filming flocks of snow geese when a Navy helicopter hovered just over Pungo Lake. Her film had nothing to do with the airfield battle, she said.
"Suddenly, thousands of geese took flight, nearly enveloping the helicopter.
"'I thought it was going down,'" she said.
"Scott sent that portion of her film to the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge manager. She hasn't seen Navy aircraft there since.
"In early 2008, the Navy announced it would not build an airfield in Washington County, but it named five new potential sites - three in Virginia and two in North Carolina, including one each in Gates and Camden counties."

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