MILTON — Naval Air Station Whiting Field has secured an easement to help protect the training mission of the installation.

The contract provides for an easement over 163 acres of undeveloped property adjacent to the northern boundary of Navy Outlying Landing Field Pace. The easement issues protections that ensure incompatible development of the land cannot occur in the future.

The property is under flight tracks for the helicopter training that occurs at NOLF Pace helping to ensure that future construction does not occur under Accident Potential Zones or clear zones.

“This parcel of land offers a tremendous buffer with respect to our TH-57 training,” Community Planning Liaison Officer Randy Roy stated. “These transactions will positively affect the installation’s mission for decades to come.”

The closing is part of a cooperative effort between the Navy and Santa Rosa County that helps ensure the continuity of training at the installation and protects the $1.19 billion economic impact that NAS Whiting Field provides to the county every year.

The easement was purchased for $571,000 with 75 percent paid by the Navy with funds from the Readiness Environmental Protection Integration program. Under the program, the Navy paid $428,000 with Santa Rosa County picking up the remainder of the costs.

"Whiting is more than Whiting Field proper. It includes 12 outlying landing fields, five in Santa Rosa County,” Santa Rosa County Commissioner Don Salter stated. “It is just as important for us to buffer these outlying landing fields as NAS Whiting Field itself.”

Easements are far less expensive to obtain than outright purchases of the property and entail no maintenance costs for the military. Additionally, easements encourage far more willing sellers, as the owners can continue to use the land, in its current state, in perpetuity.

NOLF Pace is one of five outlying landing fields used by Training Air Wing FIVE to prepare military aviators for their careers as helicopter pilots. The field routinely enables about 130,000 flight operations annually — approximately 26 percent of the helicopter training performed at NAS Whiting Field. TRAWING-5 produces more than 550 helicopter pilots for the Navy, Marine, and Coast Guard as well as a fair number of pilots for allied nations.

“The rotary-wing training mission is an important one to our Navy and its ability to protect the nation,” NAS Whiting Field Commanding Officer Capt. Todd Bahlau said. “The buffering initiatives we execute with the county are an important part of ensuring the future success of that mission here at NAS Whiting Field.”