Mile-Hi Skydive’s ‘Noise-Offset Strategy’ gets a big ‘Thumbs Down’

Skydiving operators like Frank Casares at the airport in Longmont, CO are well aware that they generate lots of noise. They select their equipment for maximum climb rate, and they pressure their pilots to maximize the number of trips in each day. 20150629scp.. F.Casares in TimesCall videoThis translates to very loud noise impacts, a grinding drone-noise that routinely runs for 10-15 minutes per flight, impacting every home on the ground below, particularly those homes within 2-3 miles of the climbing aircraft.

At the same time, skydiving operators like Mr. Casares need to be on good terms with the airport officials. The airport officials HATE noise complaints. So, how can Mr. Casares minimize his noise complaints? Easy: instruct his pilots that, after they take off, they need to fly away from the airport and conduct the bulk of their noisy climbs more than three miles from the actual airport. The radar data, viewable online, clearly shows that the bulk of Mile-Hi climbs are conducted far to the south (near Gunbarrel) and far to the west (near Altona). Thus, applying this ‘Noise Offset’ strategy, Mile-Hi focuses most of their climb noise impact upon distant communities, far away from downtown Longmont. How bad is it? Check out this link to a YouTube video of skydiving noise near Altona.

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Drop Zone is at KLMO (red hexagon). Impacted neighborhoods include Gunbarrel (6.2 miles south) and Altona (7.5 miles west). Boulder’s airport is 9 miles southwest (purple square); in fact, Mile-Hi does much of their climbing CLOSER to Boulder’s airport pattern (which has a long history of midair collisions) than to Longmont’s air traffic pattern.

Of course, for safety reasons, the skydiving planes also must remain compliant with the Letter of Agreement signed with the Denver TRACON (ATC). In fact, it appears Mile-Hi is routinely non-compliant, particularly in how they fly beyond the western boundary and northeastern boundary of the operations box.

A recent ‘Letter to the Editor’ to the Times-Call illustrates what happens when skydive operators use this Noise Offset strategy. Peter Gibbons writes of his support for the skydiving operator, and his personal disagreement with the people who are irritated by the skydiving noise. But, in the context of his letter, Mr. Gibbons is also revealing this important fact: due to Mr. Casare’s practice of offsetting his noise far from the skydiving ‘Drop Zone’, people in Longmont and near the airport are effectively made unaware of the extent of the noise impact elsewhere.

This pop-out view is scrollable, and the PDF copy may be downloaded.

So, Peter, your letter offered some rhetorical questions; here are some answers:

  • You say “…Why all of the negative press … over someone who doesn’t even work or live in our city?….” Well, Peter, simply because the skydiving operator is knowingly exporting his noise to distant areas. Would you understand if a community downstream from a polluting factory got upset when the toxic wastes were piped miles away for release in their neighborhoods? If Rocky Flats had ‘offset’ their hazardous waste to Longmont, would you be upset? I hope you would…
  • You say “…every weekend I see the residents of Longmont gathered at the statue, paid for by the city, watching and enjoying the skydivers….” They watch it, but they do not hear what others have to deal with, all day long for most summer weekends. Why don’t you try this, Peter; join me in asking Mile-Hi Skydive owner Frank Casares to take just one weekend and fly their climbs within 2-miles of the airport center (and thus miles away from Gunbarrel, Altona, and other distant impact locations). This will enable those gathered people to ‘hear’ the noise, too, and decide if they would be thrilled to watch every weekend if they also got to hear the planes all day long. If in fact the people in your town would love to hear it, then let’s ask Mr.Casares to contain his climbs as close to the statue as possibly … and far, far away from places like Gunbarrel and Altona.
  • You say “…Did everyone forget what Mile-Hi is to the community?….” Um, evidently not. For years now, many have expressed their deep concern about the adverse noise impact, all for a profit that goes narrowly to the skydiving operator. (NOTE: Most of this noise is so people can pay ~$200 to become a ‘student’ for a couple hours, then hitch a ride on a 2-person ‘tandem’ parachute. ‘Students’ who pay another $99 (cash discount price) get to take home a DVD video of their jump. Care to guess how much of this money goes ‘to the community’?) In short, Peter, impacted neighbors continue to complain because Mile-Hi’s gross profits carry a huge cost for people on the ground. And, local officials are unable to restore balance to Mile-Hi’s impacts. Sadly, the FAA sees its role as supporting aviation activities without any real concern for the environment and quality of life. Sadder, still, local officials and even the courts tend to defer to FAA’s authority, even while ignoring that FAA is failing to fulfill the mission Congress has assigned.

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