September 19, 2003 (by Lieven Dewitte) - AeroGroup Inc., the small company that raised a big commotion this summer over its F-16 flights, has moved out of Melbourne International Airport.
AeroGroup provides flight combat training services for U.S. and allied forces. The firm got a lot of complaints of local resident about loud noise and safety concerns from the F-16 fighter-jet pilot training the company hosted for the Royal Netherlands
Air Force in June.
AeroGroup officials had been trying to put together a long-term deal that would have brought back the Netherlands pilots for more training.
But the company's departure wasn't a surprise. Last month, AeroGroup already dropped plans to host another training session in Melbourne. It was already clear then that the company would have to leave Melbourne because of intense community opposition.
Currently, AeroGroup is in negotiations to move to Cecil Field near Jacksonville. The company would sublease space over there from a fixed-base operator.
Cecil Field appears to be a better fit for AeroGroup because it is far removed from residential areas, unlike Melbourne's airport.
After the Netherlands pilots finished their training, the Melbourne Airport Authority asked AeroGroup to cease its F-16 training in Melbourne, but airport officials otherwise "encouraged" the company to stay at Melbourne's airport because they are of course never happy to lose a tenant.
If Melbourne airport officials had known more about AeroGroup's business before the company arrived in 2001, the F-16 flights could have been stopped before they started, and the controversy could have been avoided.