Noise was a hot topic at Monday’s airport authority meeting.

Because of the two new 24-hour-a-day commercial runways proposed at Miramar, F-18 pilots practicing their touch-and-go aircraft carrier landings would be forced to fly in a loop a mile south of the base. They’d circle over neighborhoods such as Clairemont Mesa, Kearny Mesa and Tierrasanta and subject more than 18,000 residents to noise above 65 decibels, the Federal Aviation Administration’s noise threshold. Beyond that, studies show continual exposure to aircraft noise poses a health risk.

Airport authority member Paul G. Nieto questioned whether F-18 training would be a long-term obstacle to a commercial airport at Miramar, saying some military projections have the Marines phasing out the F-18 within eight to 12 years. The base houses 150 F-18s.

But Maj. Gen. Michael R. Lehnert, commanding general of the Marines’ West Coast bases, told the board the phase-out would happen much later, between 2030 and 2035. And he said the Pentagon is actively looking to station the fighter’s replacement at Miramar.

Who was right? They both may have been.

John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a Virginia-based defense think tank, said the Pentagon is still producing F-18s. He said those new planes will be flying for another 30 years.

While some older jets may be phased out in the next decade, Pike said, they’ll be replaced one-for-one with the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

“I’m not aware of any big plan to comprehensively move things around coincident with the F-35 coming in,” Pike said. “The default assumption would be that they’re going to put them wherever they are now.”

ROB DAVIS

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