Low-flying C-130s rattle nerves in some Berkshire communities

By Clarence Fanto, Eagle correspondent Two low-flying military aircraft, apparently on training missions, rattled some Berkshire residents early Wednesday evening as they maneuvered at low levels over several communities, according to multiple reports. The C-130 Hercules transports were spotted over parts of Great Barrington, Stockbridge, Lenox, Dalton and southeast Pittsfield, between 6 and 7:30 p.m., at low altitudes, shaking houses and skimming over treetops in wooded areas.

Some residents were alarmed, and several expressed fears of an imminent crash. At Westover Air Reserve base, Tech. Sgt.

Kristi MacDonald confirmed that C-130s have been flying around the area on military exercises over the past couple of weeks, though they did not originate at Westover, she told The Eagle on Thursday. Melissa Mazzeo said that the noise from the "ginormous" aircraft shook her house on Dalton Division Road. "It was so low, I could see the air pushed off the wings," said Mazzeo, a former city councilwoman in Pittsfield. "My immediate thought was that the plane would crash.

Then, seconds later, there was another one right behind it." Frank DiOrio, the boyfriend of Mazzeo's daughter, Mia, was washing his truck in the driveway at the time. The thrust from the first plane "blew threw the trees, shaking one of them, a 40-foot-high tree, right over me," he said. "It didn't actually clip the tree, but the wind from behind the plane moved a branch and shook the whole ground."

Article Continues After The aircraft were spotted in the Beachwood section of Stockbridge Bowl, flying low over treetops and heading diagonally over the lake toward Tanglewood, Joan Sickler said in an email message to The Eagle. "Their noise brought residents out of their homes and grabbed the attention of boaters on the lake," she stated.

A Dalton resident reported that the planes flew over a neighborhood in the town "so low that everyone came out of their house, and one neighbor saw the landing gear from his skylight."

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"They ... really frightened all the kids and adults," the resident wrote in an email message. "I thought they were going to crash right into the house." State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli said he was shaken up by the explosive sound of the low-flying aircraft during the dinner hour at his home in downtown Lenox.

He told The Eagle that he feared a potential crash into one of the nearby hills. "I heard from many constituents," Pignatelli said. Article Continues After

He urged that, in the future, the military unit originating training flights should give residents of the flyover area an advance heads-up in order to avoid startling and potentially frightening the public. The planes did not originate from the Barnes Air National Guard unit, which shares a runway with the city-owned Barnes-Westfield civil military airport, according to Master Sgt. Lindsey Watson-Kirwin.

But, they could have originated from military units based as far away as New Jersey, New Hampshire and Bangor, Maine. "They weren't ours," she said, noting that her Air National Guard Wing 104 base flies F-15C fighter jets. At the Air National Guard unit based at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn., north of Hartford, Tech.

Sgt. Tamara Dabney said she was checking with her operations team to try to determine the origin of the C-130 flights. Pittsfield Municipal Airport Manager Daniel Shearer said he had no record of any military flights flying over the airport or landing Wednesday evening.

He said he had received "a handful of calls" about the maneuvers. "They don't tell us when they do training flights," he said. "It's unlikely they landed here, but they may have overflown the airport." Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto[email protected] and 413-637-2551.

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