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US chopper flights whip Bavarians into fury

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US chopper flights whip Bavarians into fury
Photo: DPA
17:38 CEST+02:00
Residents around the US Army base at Katterbach in Bavaria are locked in an escalating feud with the American military over late-night helicopter flights and so-called “Rambo attitudes” of the soldiers, media reported on Tuesday.

More than 500 complaints have been received by the city of Ansbach in Middle Franconia already this year – more than ever before – about the helicopter noise, which routinely goes until midnight, daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reported.

Katterbach houses the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, which consists of 3,100 military personnel and more than 100 Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters.

When the Katterbach base was established in the 1970s, the commander supposedly made a “gentleman's agreement” with the then mayor of Ansbach: the helicopters would fly as little as possible over populated areas and never at night.

But after a while, the Americans began to ignore the agreement, residents told Süddeutsche Zeitung. The city has pleaded with the Americans.

“And absolutely nothing has happened,” Mayor Carda Seidel told the paper.

The last meeting of the “Noise Commission,” a body made up of representatives of the US Army and the mayors of local towns and villages, ended without any concrete decisions. Letters have gone unanswered and protests ignored. The base's commander did not respond to inquiries from Süddeutsche Zeitung.

The municipal officials are somewhat torn because they also depend economically on the base.

“For our mutual benefit, it is important that we take the Americans into account,” said Seidel, before adding, “At the moment they are not doing that for us.”

Meanwhile, an American community near the B14 road through Middle Franconia has attracted the anger of locals after the Americans built a large housing estate including a hotel and shopping centre on top of a bird and frog habitat. Barbed wire has been erected without permission.

Residents complain about the “occupiers” with “Rambo attitudes,” according to Süddeutsche Zeitung. Letters to the local newspaper demand “Army go home.”

Dieter Hiemer, 45, who has lived in the Obereichenbach area for 20 years, complained he was suffering sleep loss because of the helicopters.

The nurse, birdwatcher and nature lover branded the noise of the helicopters “hell” that “shakes the plates in the cupboard.”

On a piece of recycled paper, he had compiled a list of infringements on one particular evening: 10:23 pm “flyover”; 10:25 pm “ditto”; 10:26 pm “again.”

He measured one of those flights at 90 decibels, which is as loud as a jackhammer. Often the flights do not stop until midnight. Four years ago, Hiemer founded a citizen's group, Etz langt's, which has about 200 members. One of its mottos is: “Helicopters to wind turbines.”

The Ansbach City Council passed a resolution banning flights after 10 pm, but this is overridden by federal law. The Defence Ministry allows flights until midnight. In May and August, training flights are allowed until 1:30 am and in June and July they are permitted until 2 am.

The Local/djw

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