Early-Week Rumblings Explained

BERLIN — Distant rumblings heard and felt across the south end of Worcester County and as far north as West Ocean City on Monday were the result of the U.S. Navy practicing simulated carrier landings for two large aircraft at Wallops Island, NASA officials confirmed this week.
The loud noises were the result of a new partnership between the Navy and NASA’s Wallops Island Flight Facility on the Virginia coast just south of Assateague and Ocean City. Earlier this year, NASA reached an agreement allowing the Navy to practice simulated, land-based aircraft carrier landings on a modified airstrip at Wallops.
On Monday, the Navy began practicing touch-and-go field carrier landing practice (FCLP) at Wallops for its E-2 Hawkeye and C-2 Greyhound aircraft. The first series of practice landings were conducted on Monday and will continue off and on throughout the next year and into the future. The two twin-engine turboprop aircraft are expected to conduct up to 20,000 FCLP passes annually at Wallops as per an agreement with NASA.
Earlier this year, the Navy completed all necessary minor construction at Wallops to facilitate the practice landings including the installation of runway lighting and markings to simulate the flight deck of an actual aircraft carrier. Before reaching the agreement with Wallops, the Navy conducted the training at Auxiliary Landing Field Fentress in nearby Chesapeake, Va., but capacity issues at the base caused the Navy to look elsewhere for an appropriate venue for the training.
In addition, the Navy was also forced to send detachments associated with the Hawkeye and Greyhound aircraft to Jacksonville, Fla. at least four to six times a year for the training at great expense and inconvenience. With the strip at Wallops adapted to accommodate the practice aircraft carrier landings, the Navy will be able to conduct the training in its own backyard. Despite the occasional rumblings heard in the distance by area residents, the Navy’s new partnership with Wallops is considered a positive for the shore.
“This initiative entails positive net economic benefits to the region,” the Navy said in an official release this week. “In addition to the recently completed construction, the Navy will pay for expanded service requirements at the airfield to support FCLP and also provide NASA direct payment for airfield use. Additionally, the ability to conduct two-week detachments will result in the requirement to obtain messing, berthing and transportation services on the civilian economy.”