A letter to Skydive Oregon (in Molalla)

The letter below was emailed to Skydive Oregon, on the morning of 3/30/13. It seeks to resolve an aviation noise impact associated with Skydive’s commercial operation.  A copy is also being sent to the local newspaper, the Molalla Pioneer.

Date: Saturday, 3/30/2013, ~9:30AM
Sent to: skydive@molalla.net; skydive@skydiveoregon.com
Subject: Can you give us a little advanced warning?

Hello, Skydive Oregon.

What noise may I (and thousands of my rural neighbors) expect today?

I am looking at a beautiful morning sky with a joy for what projects I can work on today, in the forest and in my garden. I am happy to be living here, in Clackamas County, Oregon, a place I proudly call home. Yesterday was the first day this year where I had the pleasure of watching violet-green swallows swooping around the trees and over the pastures. They clearly love to fly, almost as much as I love watching them fly; it is wonderful that they thrive on this piece of land that I am dedicated to preserving.

I love being here, but there is a harsh reality I must confront: the quality of this living experience is substantially diminished by the noise you create, while earning profits flying parachutists (mostly Portlanders) out of the small airport on the west side of Molalla. At this moment, under this glorious spring sunshine, I should be singing “Oh, what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day, …”; instead, I restrain my expectations and fear for what I soon will have to hear. For, as has been the case on nearly all sunny days these past two years, the local rural quality of life here will be diminished by the drone of the turboprops you fly.

As I understand it, you have for decades insisted on doing your drops at higher altitudes which conflict with the arrivals going into PDX. Specifically, your insistence on releasing your paid customers at 12,000′ and 13,000′ and even higher means those parachutists are being dropped THROUGH the flightpaths of PDX arrivals crossing Molalla at 10,000′ to 12,000′ (and descending). As a consequence of your insistence, FAA at Portland TRACON negotiated with you years ago, that you must do your climbs to the east of the Molalla River; the aim was safety; to have you climb clear of that arrival corridor, so that you will not conflict with the passenger flights coming in from California, Nevada and Arizona. An unfortunate consequence of that scheme, though, is it has you climbing miles away from your base, impacting rural residents who likely have no idea that the noise they find so disturbing is associated with a private airport west of Molalla.

I also understand that a couple years ago you purchased Cessna 208’s for your operation. You are in aviation, so you know that FedEx typically uses these as ‘boxhaulers’, to feed cargo between small airports and hubs. You also know they produce a loud and penetrating turbo whining sound. When you conduct climbs over this area, we on the ground have to hear the penetrating turbo whine for far too long. On days like today, if business is good at Skydive, life is not so good on the ground, in our rural homes. Hour after hour, most of the day, for roughly half of each hour, we will be subjected to your noise pollution. Your noise is horrible.

Can this problem be fixed? Are there operational changes you could make that might reduce your impact? It seems plausible that you could slow your climb-rate, thus lower the power setting and the resultant engine noise level. Maybe that would fix the problem? Or, you could do shorter trips; conduct your drops under the PDX arrival corridor (maybe all drops at 8,000′ or 9,000′?), which would negate your need to make lengthier and more impactful climbs. Or, as a compromise, you could limit the higher drops to smaller time windows of each day; that way, if we can develop a workable noise management plan and you comply with it, we residents will know the noise impact will be done in another hour or two, and not dread it going on all day long. That might help. Or, you could just quit. For the record, I respect the right of a person to make a living; I hope we all respect that a person also has a right to improve and protect the quality of their home environment.

Is there a way for us to all get together and fix this problem? Yes, but that depends on you agreeing to participate. Do I (or others) expect or insist that you close down? Not me, though I have learned there are a few others who would love to see you closed.

Should we be able to expect you to meet, to voluntarily hear our concerns (just as we are involuntarily subjected to your noise), so that a noise impact management plan might result? Absolutely.

We need to resolve this problem. So, as a starter, can you please advise via a simple email reply: what impact may we expect from your commercial operation today…?

  • how many flights?
  • from what start time to what finish time?
  • at what frequency (how many operations per hour)?
  • climbing to what altitudes (so we can anticipate the duration)?
  • and using what aircraft type(s)?
  • to carry how many parachutists per trip?

I look forward to your reply, and to a chance to work to fix this noise problem.

– Jeff Lewis

See also… (blue dates link to online content)

A Noise Issue: Molalla Skydive’s parachute planes
POST by aiREFORM.com
Rocky Mountain Loud: Skydiving Noise Impacts near Longmont, Colorado
POST by aiREFORM.com, showing a similar impact pattern and FAA regulatory failure in a different community.
Molalla Skydive Airport [OL05]
REFERENCE – maps, data, etc. for the airport and the skydive noise issue.