PORTSMOUTH — Due to quieter aircraft and a general lull in the aviation industry, noise created at the airport at Pease International Tradeport is less than it was nearly 10 years ago, and it looks like it will only continue to shrink over the next several years.
“The noise contours have shrunk,” said Richard Doucette, of the Planning and Program branch of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Airports Division. He credited the state of the economy and quieter aircraft for the change.
“Nationwide, the number of flights have decreased dramatically in the last 10 to 15 years,” he said.
The information comes from a study done over the past year by Harris Miller Miller & Hanson Inc., which specializes in noise and vibration control. Senior consultant Brad Nicholas presented results of the study in the draft of the Noise Exposure Map for 2015-2019 at a Pease Development Authority meeting Thursday night. The map offers detailed description of the airport’s layout, operation and noise exposure areas. Data was collected in 2012, but included the effects of added flights by that year’s end.
“There were a few new operators,” Nicholas said of the end of 2012 compared to the beginning. “There were two 747 cargo flights a week added and one helicopter operator, I believe.”
Allegiant Air returned commercial passenger service in 2013.
The last complete study was done in 1995.
“We constantly work with regard to noise here,” said Pease Airport Manager Bill Hopper. “We take it very seriously.”
Hopper explained to those at the meeting that the maps are solely scientific data. The studies were funded by the FAA and the Department of Transportation. “They’re just benchmarking where we are at this point in time,” he said.
Doucette added, “We want a picture of what’s happening now, not many years ago.”
A couple residents and others involved in local town government felt the studies should do more than simply present data.
“The requirement simply is to look at land uses that … are pretty close to the airfield,” Nicholas said. “The noise exposure is computed with a computer model. It’s not really practical to measure at an actual location.”
He said data is used from a variety of sources: a nationwide noise exposure database, airport radar of flight tracks and operations, weather reports and land use overlays.
“So you’re not looking at all the communities. You’re just looking at this little computer model,” said Peggy Lamson of the Noise Compatibility Committee. “We have this whole area, you should be doing that. What good is this study?
“I would take issue with that,” Nicholas replied, reiterating the study’s purpose and scope. There are two major components to the “Part 150” studies, he said. One is the noise exposure maps and the other is the noise compatibility program. “Based on this study, aircraft are not going to be restricted or stop flying or change their flight paths in any way.”
“We’re not adjusting or changing any procedures,” Hopper said. “I believe it’s in 2019 that we will be undertaking a complete Noise Compatibility Program.”
Doucette said the Noise Compatibility Program is the “fixing part” of the study. After that is completed if there are new homes that have been added inside the noise contour boundary they would be eligible for federally funded noise mitigation.
“There are no new people affected by greater noise than there were 10 years ago,” he said. “There are relatively few people inside that boundary.”
Doucette said “a couple dozen” homes in Portsmouth and Newington within the boundary were retrofitted with sound insulation in the 1990s. “Some people aren’t bothered by noise and some are very bothered,” he said of communities in general.
The study also forecasts conditions for 2019.
“There’s essentially no change,” Nicholas said. “The fleet of aircraft should be a bit quieter at that point due to the phase out of the loudest jets.”
He added the phasing out of small older jets would account for less noise as they are often more loud than their large commercial counterparts.
The final Noise Exposure Map is expected within a month. Citizens interested in reviewing the draft map document can do so until May 23 by scheduling an appointment through Sandra McDonough at the Pease Development Authority offices. She can be reached by calling 433-6536 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments on the draft can also be submitted by postal mail to Part 150 Noise Exposure Map Update Comments, Pease Development Authority, 36 Airline Ave., Portsmouth, NH, 03801.