Updated Remarks, by Petition Signers Nationwide

(click on image to read the petition at Change.org)

(click on image to read the petition at Change.org)

This is an extraordinary collection of comments, well worth studying. Here are some conclusions that are readily apparent:

  • The noise impacts of aviation are EVERYWHERE, and exacerbated by a federal agency (FAA) that is totally indifferent to the impacts … too busy serving their industry with fewer restrictions and regulations. A classic example of fully formed Regulatory Capture.
  • The melting pot that is our nation is beautifully reflected in the comments, especially in the impact areas around Flushing, Queens, and Roslyn, New York. The many comments suggest that even people who have recently come to live in our nation are shocked at what they see is happening to local quality of life.
  • Many people may have become conditioned to not speak up. For example, the largest skydiving noise impact in the nation right now is being caused by Frank Casares’ Mile Hi Skydiving, operating out of the airport in Longmont, Colorado. For a few years now, impacted people have seen the hostile, uncivil, and in some cases frighteningly aggressive comments by skydiving advocates in various online forums. They have become conditioned to stay quiet. Yet, with this petition, dozens have chosen to speak up by adding their valuable comments.
  • Probably the community most intensively impacted by NextGen is Phoenix, due especially to FAA’s giving the airlines early turns in west flows (impacting the Grand Ave and Laveen areas). Thousands of residents are impacted, but their property values are plummeting, and it appears that many have become afraid to attach a name and a concern that might undermine their negotiating position while selling the homes they once loved. This is terrible: that elected officials and federal authorities (like you, Michael Huerta and Glen Martin!) do nothing to mitigate an undisputed impact, letting it persist long enough to force people to move on for their health … and that people in our nation are afraid to speak up! We all owe a lot to those who have posted their comments.

Click on page two to view the roughly 280 comments, sorted by location, and be sure to look at your own community. Also, if you or someone you know is concerned about unmitigated aviation noise, please sign the petition and add your comments! Even better, tell your elected representatives you signed and they need to ‘get to work’. We all need to speak up if this problem is to be remedied.

Frank LoBiondo’s Chance to Lead on Climate Change

After a year with record high temperatures, extreme drought, and horrific wildfires, our elected leaders may finally be moving past their longstanding political impasse. Ten of the more moderate Republican representatives have signed on to a call for action on climate change. Doing so, they are bucking the entrenched position of their party, which has been to deny that climate change is connected to excessive consumption, particularly of fossil fuels.

The Environmental Stewardship Resolution was released last week, sponsored by Rep. Chris Gibson, of New York: “This is a call for action to study how humans are impacting our environment and to look for consensus on areas where we can take action to mitigate the risks and balance our impacts.”

20150917cpy.. F.LoBiondo bio picOne of the newest cosponsors is Frank LoBiondo, a Republican from New Jersey. Congressman LoBiondo is in a very powerful position, because he is a member of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee and chairs the Subcommittee on Aviation. As such, he is one of a tiny few U.S. leaders who can steer FAA’s future. A future that needs to include aviation fee and tax reform, so that aviation operators are strongly incentivized to minimize fuel consumption.

Congressman LoBiondo’s online biography notes his roots and includes this:

“Drawing from his childhood love of the outdoors, Frank has always maintained a strong commitment to protecting the environment. Throughout his time in public office, he has worked to protect fragile wildlife and wetlands areas and stood up for projects that will preserve and restore the New Jersey coastline. His work in Congress has won recognition from many environmental groups including the Audubon Society, the League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club.”

With that, it seems entirely conceivable that Congressman LoBiondo could merge his background with his power, and perform the biggest accomplishment of his political career: take a REAL stand for the environment. In one fell swoop, he could significantly reduce both noise and carbon pollution, while also ensuring more people get direct airline flights, cutting out many of those out-of-the-way stops at today’s mega-hub airports.

His subcommittee is currently being worked over by lobbyists, all agitating for taking ATC out of FAA (sometimes called ‘ATC privatization, or ‘ANSP autonomy’). The lobbyists dress the proposal up as if it will make things better, failing to clarify the main beneficiaries will be themselves, not the Public. Ignoring what the Public wants/needs, FAA and the industry WANT a federally chartered, non-profit organization because it will further insulate them from accountability. In reality, the players in today’s Av-Gov Complex want to be accountable only to themselves (a.k.a., the ‘stakeholders’).

So, forget about ‘privatizing’ ATC, at least for now. Our Congress, starting with the Subcommittee on Aviation, should tell Mr. Huerta and the boys, and under no uncertain terms…

…there will be no reduction of Congressional FAA oversight until FAA shows reliable and accountable performance and transparency. Until FAA cleans house, this Congress will never — and no Congress should ever — reward the incompetence and arrogance being demonstrated by the employees and their tone-deaf agency.

In other words, FAA needs to clean up their growing NextGen mess; give local authority back to local officials, so communities can manage aviation noise; become transparent.

Quit serving only the industry … start serving the taxpayers.

So, What Might LoBiondo’s Next Move Be?

Here’s an idea. LoBiondo should move to implement a revenue-neutral carbon tax for all aviation fuels.

We could very effectively use aviation as an example, to demonstrate how well the revenue-neutral carbon tax concept can work, and to set a high standard for the other energy consumption sectors to follow. Nobody denies that we need to vigorously manage our entire fossil fuels diet (gas, oil, and coal, for transportation, heating, industry and power generation). So, why not start with a focused program, aimed solely at aviation carbon consumption?

We need a steep carbon fee and dividend (CFD), and we need to rationalize the revenue base that funds ATC and other FAA programs. The smartest way would be to charge user fees based on the factors that matter today: a user fee for runway access, an ATC charge proportionate to distance flown, and carbon fees in proportion to total fuel consumed. In combination, these changes would fully replace the current tax/fee system, and would yield enormous efficiencies and dividends. For example, a steep aviation carbon fee and dividend…

  • …would strongly encourage the major airlines away from routing passengers via out-of-the-way mega-hubs, to instead set schedules that route more passengers nonstop or via smaller, more manageable hubs aligned close to the direct route of flight.
  • …would impose natural limiting forces, to discourage overdeveloping hubs into mega-hubs. We have seen enough; at some point any hub airport grows to become too big; there is a diseconomy of hyper scale.
  • …would make it much more expensive for a single banker, CEO, politician, or other privileged jetsetter to consume thousands of pounds of fuel per hour in a bizjet, on unnecessary business flights or when zipping off for ski trips and golf junkets; and,
  • …would quickly bring relief to impacted neighbors suffering from nonstop aviation noise, particularly at the busiest mega-hub airport cities: Chicago and Atlanta.

See also:
  • 9/17/2015 – Bernie Sanders Slams GOP for Ignoring ‘Planetary Crisis’ of Climate Change at the second second GOP debate.

Remarks by Petitioners Nationwide

People are impacted by aviation noise Everywhere!

Click on page two to view some great remarks from Chicago, Milton, Longmont, Santa Monica, Phoenix, Zephyrhills, and even Tetonia, Idaho! Scroll or text-search the name of your town, to see what others are seeing where you live.

Let’s get more petition signatures (and more great remarks!) to help FAA clean up this mess….

Please Sign This Petition!!

(click on image to read the petition at Change.org)

(click on image to read the petition at Change.org)

A small group of noise-impacted citizens have worked together to create a petition that is generally aimed at:

  1. restoring local control on airport environmental impacts;
  2. maximizing aviation transparency (so impacted neighbors can use real data to efficiently resolve aviation noise problems); and
  3. stripping FAA of the environmental regulation authorities they have increasingly abused (…in apparent ‘service’ to the airlines and other aviation operators).

This past year has been extraordinary for the extent of news coverage on aviation noise impacts. The highest profile news stories have involved FAA’s botched NextGen implementations at major commercial airports near Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, LaGuardia, Los Angeles, Minneapolis-St.Paul, Phoenix, San Francisco, and Seattle. But the loss of quality of life caused by excessive aircraft noise also happens near smaller airports, particularly those with operations using repetitive flight patterns and noisier aircraft types, such as:

  • AIR TOURISM: In places like the Grand Canyon and Hawaii, the vistas are astounding, but the quality of the experience is destroyed by the loud ‘thump-thump-thump’ of commercial air tour helicopters. The huge profits made by the operators come at a great ‘cost’ to other park visitors. The National Park Service has worked for decades to create meaningful aviation noise regulation, but their efforts are always stymied by FAA and the very operators FAA fails to regulate.
    — When are we going to take FAA out of the business of impeding the regulation of aviation noise in parks?
  • BANNER-TOWS: there have been seven newsworthy banner tow accidents thus far in 2015, with multiple injuries and one fatality.
    — Do we really need noisy airplanes to sell us insurance and beer?
  • CLOSED-PATTERN FLIGHT-INSTRUCTION: The busiest airport in Oregon is not Portland, but Hillsboro, where FAA recently spent tens of millions to add another runway to accommodate flight instruction. A single company makes a huge amount by importing student pilots from around the world, especially China, to train in the local airport traffic patterns. The problem: the training aircraft burn mostly leaded aviation fuel, and they fly low over neighborhoods and schools.
    — If we are importing students from China, shouldn’t FAA ensure they train away from our homes, perhaps at large remote airports?
  • HELICOPTER AIR CHARTERS: Tens of thousands of residents on Long Island endure invasive noise when financially elite passengers take expensive helicopter rides out to the Hamptons. The town of East Hampton has for decades refused to accept FAA money, so they can regain local control. FAA is fighting them every way they can.
    — Shouldn’t FAA allow local officials to serve local taxpaying citizens, by imposing reasonable regulations on local airport activities?
  • JET AIR CHARTERS: Just like at East Hampton, on the West Coast the people in Santa Monica have fought for decades to reclaim control of their local airport. Their public health concerns include air pollution, noise pollution and the lack of needed safety zones to handle more than 14,000 jet operations per year. Homes are literally across a chain-link fence from the airplanes; so close that lawn furniture is blown over when charter jets and bizjets turn to take the runway. Jet fumes (and leaded fumes from the flight-training planes) continue to choke neighbors. The airport simply cannot contain dangerous runway excursions by jets, but still, FAA’s lawyers continue to take administrative and legal actions against the local authorities, blocking their efforts to assert local control.
    — The impacts at Santa Monica are so egregious and so thoroughly documented, it just makes no sense that these good citizens have to keep fighting for clean air and peace. Will Congress finally step in and force FAA to allow reasonable regulations by local officials?
  • NEWS-COPTERS & OTHER LOW-FLYING HELICOPTERS: FAA’s rules effectively mean that there are no reasonable minimum altitudes and helicopters can be flown at any altitude. The result is a growing problem of very noisy and invasive news helicopters, as well as privately owned copters used to commute between the office and residential helipads.
    — Given the high noise levels of helicopters, isn’t it time that FAA set rules that force them to fly higher, further from our homes and schools?
  • SKYDIVING: These airplanes are modified to climb faster (and get as many trips in each hour), making them among the noisiest airplanes in use. These operators also have a habit of ‘offsetting’ their climbs 4- to 8-miles away from the airport, so that impacted residents have no idea that all-day-long airplane drone is related to skydiving.
    — Given the concentrated noise impacts of skydiving, isn’t it time for FAA to adopt meaningful regulations and environmental review, to protect the rights of people to maintain quality of life?

So, PLEASE sign this Petition! And, please also spend a minute and share your personal comment. Let everyone know what is happening where you live…

…which airport impacts your life, and how has FAA
failed to help you and your neighbors?

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.

text

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.

See also:

‘Dear President Obama’ – An Outstanding Anti-Fracking Website

This Post is not directly about aviation, but it is highly relevant and presented for four reasons:

  1. just like aviation, the hydro-fracking industry is highly impactful against the environment and local quality of life;
  2. the adverse impacts of both aviation and hydro-fracking tend to be focused on specific communities, whose members increasingly find a rigged system, wherein the industry is bolstered by captured regulatory agencies while the People have no real voice;
  3. aviation is horribly dependent on the use of fossil fuels (there are simply no clear alternative energies that can feed aviation’s energy appetite), thus is a key industry driving hydro-fracking and other ‘dirty energy extraction processes; and,
  4. the ‘Dear President Obama’ website presents an outstanding format, using video, images, and written content, to help illuminate the national scope of these many local problem areas.

Here are two sample videos…

Pennsylvania:

Colorado:
If you are concerned about aviation impacts, by NextGen or by your local unregulated activities (e.g., skydiving, air tours, banner tows, etc.), please spend a few minutes looking at the ‘Dear President Obama’ website and watching some of the videos. Think about your own local story, and the letter you want to send if/when we can find an official who cares to fix aviation problems. In the coming years, we will need to work together; creating a similar website focused on aviation impacts is a project some of us should take on, and it would be a great step forward.

Airport Noise: Fifteen Ways to Quiet the Skies

The following list was compiled by one of the oldest groups advocating for cleaner and less impactful aviation in the United States: US-CAW (U.S.-Citizens Aviation Watch). A reference to ‘Stage IV’ suggests this was compiled long ago, even as early as the 1990s. Items #1, #2, #3, and #12 would greatly improve quality of life at Santa Monica, Longmont, East Hampton, and the growing list of NextGen-impacted airports (Phoenix, Charlotte and LaGuardia stand out on the list).

The list below is filled with great ideas, but we all just wait for the long overdue action by Congress and FAA….

  1. Increase local control of airports.
    Demand that two-thirds of airport commission members live within the high impact area where average day/night levels exceed 65 dBA (what the FAA calls moderate noise exposure). Also, increase local control with regard to expansion, number and time of takeoffs, landings, ground operations, etc.
  2. Remove FAA from oversight of environmental quality and public health.
    This would remove a significant conflict of interest for the FAA which has too often seen its role as promoting air transportation. Noise and other environmental pollutants need to be regulated by some combination of EPA and local oversight.
  3. Abandon the day/night sound pressure level of 65 dBA that the FAA uses to separate “low” noise exposure from “moderate” noise exposure.
    The 65 dBA value is too noisy and unhealthy. Use 55 dBA as an interim value until a descriptor that includes low frequency noise, and better reflects the impacts of aircraft noise such as sleep disturbance, interference with learning, and other noise impacts.
  4. Develop high-speed rail alternatives to aircraft flights of less than 500 miles.
    Redirect government investment from airport expansion to high-speed rail. Also, support efforts to quiet rail transit.
  5. Protect the public from environmental and health hazards at and near airports.
    These include the release of significant amounts of toxins, known carcinogens and de-icing fluids. Existing Clean Air and Clean Water regulations need to be enforced and new regulations addressing the public health and environmental impacts of airports and airplane travel need to be adopted.
  6. Support a Global Nighttime Curfew.
    Around the world, hundreds of airports already have curfews. Local nighttime curfews, while a positive step, shift the problem elsewhere. A nationwide and global effort is needed.
  7. Demand that airports and airlines pay the full cost of airline travel.
    Remove all FAA subsidies; increase landing fees to cover lost property value, insulation programs, health effects, and annoyance; increase fuel taxes to account for environmental and public health damage; and remove local subsidies.
  8. Expand soundproofing programs to all homes, churches, schools, hospitals, and commercial businesses experiencing a day/night average of greater than 55 dBA from airports.
    Eventually, all sensitive properties–homes, churches, schools, day care, hospitals, etc.–should be protected against indoor single event readings exceeding 45 dBA with windows open. Insulation and soundproofing alone, however, is not the solution because it neglects outdoor noise. Insulation does not provide for the full enjoyment of common and private property. However, at least it protects people inside their homes.
  9. Demand objective health studies of noise and other pollutants near airports.

  10. Support quieter and cleaner aircraft technology (called Stage IV).
    Stage IV technology may be years away, and in the future, aircraft may achieve smaller reductions in pollution, both in terms of air and noise pollution. Therefore, Stage IV technology should not be relied upon as the main solution to aircraft pollution. Nevertheless, technological improvements should be aggressively pursued.
  11. Ban flights over and within 2 miles
    of non-urban National Parks, Wilderness areas, National Monuments, National Seashores, and other sensitive and pristine public lands (except for emergency, research, construction and maintenance activities).
  12. Increase the minimum altitude for general aviation craft and helicopters
    to 2,000 feet above ground level and implement an effective policing mechanism. Impose a minimum flight altitude for 2,500 feet above ground level for all tour operations and commercial transport services (for example, air taxis).
  13. Ban commercial and corporate SST flights from United States Airports and airspace.

  14. Avoid solutions that shift noise to others.
    The FAA likes to pit one community against another because it divides opposition to its policies. A fairer distribution of noise might make sense for many airports, but moving the noise around doesn’t solve the problem and divides people who should be united against airport noise. The problem of airport noise will not be solved one airport at a time. Persons with airport noise problems must unite. Significant changes in the FAA will likely occur only when airport groups can show significant power and support to Washington.
  15. Foster connections with and support other noise pollution organizations.
    A victory for any group fighting noise is a victory for all. This is the only way to create a broad enough coalition to actually reduce noise pollution.

UPDATE: Citizens for Quiet Skies Legal Action in Longmont, CO

In her decision on May 21st, U.S. District Court Judge LaBuda sided with Mile-Hi Skydiving. At the root of Judge LaBuda’s decision was a total deference to FAA, the federal agency that manages aviation issues by letting operators do whatever they want … and the same federal agency that protects aviation from environmental accountability. A classic captured regulatory agency. This huge legal effort by Citizens for Quiet Skies (CQS) has always been aimed at correcting this problem, seeking to restore meaningful local control so airports will again serve not just pilots but the local community, too.

In June, Judge LaBuda awarded nearly $68,000 to Mile-Hi for supposedly “reasonable costs.” These costs included $40,000 for Mile-Hi’s noise expert, and costs incurred for defense counsel Anthony Leffert to fly to California and sit next to the noise expert during his deposition. Adding insult to injury, two months after the trial’s conclusion the Judge went further and granted another $48,000 in “attorney fees” to Mile-Hi Skydiving, opining that the lawsuit was ‘frivolous’ and agreeing that the plaintiffs should be punished for some of the claims that were dismissed prior to trial. The plaintiffs must now submit 125% of the awarded amount to the court until the appeal is concluded – $145,000 in total.

These are ordinary citizens who, as you can well imagine, will have to liquidate retirement accounts and make very difficult financial choices. Make no mistake, Judge LaBuda’s clearly punitive actions toward the plaintiffs are aimed at driving a stake right through the heart of citizen activism – not just at this airport, but at ALL U.S. airports.

Citizens for Quiet Skies is standing tall. Kimberly Gibbs wrote a great letter, No Ceiling for Noise, posted at FreeRangeLongmont.com on August 2nd. Kimberly also shares that the first payment to the legal team has been made, with CQS offering many thanks to the hundreds who have contributed to help cover legal expenses throughout the trial and now with the appeal. 20150808cpy.. Fundraising letters received KLMO picFunds are still needed to cover the expense to proceed with the appeal, so please consider making a generous donation to this effort – their work is on behalf of many skydiving victim communities across the country. It’s easy, just click the donate button on their website at:  http://citizensforquietskies.org/

One reaction to Judge LaBuda’s decisions has been some fairly intense (and often very uncivil) commentary, particularly at the local Longmont newspaper (TimesCall.com) and the local Boulder newspaper (DailyCamera.com). A better collection of letters, with faster access, no ads, and more moderate and civil comments, is viewable at FreeRangeLongmont.com. It is clear that the community is very deeply split. Skydivers and other aviation-types (including airport officials) continue to make wild claims of how the airport boosts the economy, and the worst members of their ‘group’ continue to attack Ms. Gibbs and others; a growing number of neighbors have had enough, are rejecting the pro-aviation pitches and expressing outrage at what the court has done.

Here is a recent online comment by one of those neighbors:

Michelle Sullivan: Let’s find middle ground on plane noise
“I have lived in Longmont for over 13 years. The noise from the skydiving planes has been a growing issue, especially since they added the newer plane. At times when my husband and I are outside, enjoying our otherwise beautiful back yard, we have to halt our conversation when the plane is climbing because we literally cannot hear each other talk.
It is time for this to stop. If you are a citizen affected in the area, please do something to help this fight.
It appears to me that the judge was extremely bias and the Citizens for Quiet Skies were not treated fairly. I found this especially true the day the judge did a site visit to hear the plane. I was outside the entire day, and I assure you that was the quietest I have ever heard the plane climb. If the judge wanted to be totally fair and hear an accurate flight she should not have announced when she was listening.
I believe the judge’s efforts to punish the group further by the outrageous award for attorney fee’s is unfair. Furthermore, it was disrespectful to call the lawsuit frivolous.
During the summer especially, it is miserable to be outside listening to a 12-hour stint of unreasonable noise, not to mention we can clearly hear it in our house all day long. Surely there is a middle ground here. ”

Click on page two to view copies of more online comments supporting the need for mitigation of the Mile-Hi Skydiving noise impact.


UPDATE, 8/18/2015: — The KLMO airport webpage now includes a Reference Page with an extensive collection of links to online articles, letters-to-editor, and more.

A Sample Letter to Congress, Seeking Help to Manage Excessive Skydiving Noise

“The current FAA rules actually provide loopholes that serve to protect offenders and prevent the application and enforcement of reasonable noise standards for aviation operators. Many of these aviation businesses that create excessive community noise impacts are based at airports subsidized using federal air passenger taxes, and these taxes are paid by people flying through the large commercial airports. Thus, FAA is using our money to enable skydiving, air tour, and other recreational operators to generate large personal profits, while at the same time diminishing the quality of life for our neighborhoods.”
– a key point made in the attached ‘Sample Letter’

A common practice among skydiving operators is that they will fly at least a few miles away from their base airport, so that the long drone of their noisy climbs will not disturb people at and near the airport. The effect is an offset of the noise impact, typically onto quiet rural areas and/or distant residential neighborhoods. Suddenly, for entire weekends, areas that previously had no substantial aviation noise are hearing the irritating grind of skydiving climbs ALL DAY LONG!

This is an ongoing problem in communities across the nation. So, when the homeowners near Longmont, Colorado pressed their skydiving noise concerns all the way to their local U.S. District Court, they did us all a great favor. Unfortunately, the Judge deferred strongly to FAA to justify not ruling against the skydiving noise operator. And so, Mile Hi Skydiving Center is continuing to destroy quality of life in the residential neighborhoods they climb over … some near the Longmont Airport, but many quite a few miles away. Check out this outstanding video created to document the impact for a typical day of Longmont skydiving noise:

In the big picture, if FAA was doing a ‘balanced’ job, regulating aviation commerce while also serving the larger public, we would not have such severe noise impacts, and we would not need civil actions like Citizens for Quiet Skies et al v. Mile-Hi Skydiving Center. But the fact is, FAA is failing, especially as regards the substantial environmental impacts of aviation. So, our best bet to demand real performance by FAA is to go to Congress, and get our elected officials to demand FAA clean up its act.

Page two of this Post presents a sample letter to elected officials. You can use it to model your own letter, wherever your home is being impacted by out-of-control skydiving noise. This particular letter was submitted anonymously by a person familiar with the Longmont skydive noise issue and the recent District Court trial. The author presents some very good points, as well as suggestions for how Congress can correct some of FAA’s failures.

So, please read this letter carefully and, if you are inspired to write your own, please consider sharing it with this website, where we will gladly post it as you wish, with (or without) your name.

Citizens for Quiet Skies et al v. Mile-Hi Skydiving Center

Aside

“Your home should be a place of Peace and Quiet…
…but God help you if you live near
a skydiving operation!”

Such might have been mumbled by a homeowner or an old-fashioned reporter, at the conclusion of the case, Citizens for Quiet Skies et al v. Mile-Hi Skydiving Center, heard in the U.S. District Court, in Boulder, Colorado.

The case was a bench trial before Judge Judith LaBuda, who heard five days of testimony, April 13-17, 2015. Judge LaBuda conducted a site visit on May 2nd, to experience the noise impact (while defendant Mile-Hi kept their flights far away … but only for a few hours!) and closing arguments were presented on May 6th. Both parties submitted Proposed Findings of Fact on May 15th. Judge LaBuda issued her decision on May 21st, siding with Mile-Hi Skydiving while articulating a heavy deference to FAA’s regulatory authority.

The principle spokespeople for the two sides were Kimberly Gibbs and Frank Casares. Both speak in this video, posted at TimesCall, one of the local papers that has been following this issue.

Ms. Gibbs lives 6-miles south of the Longmont airport. Like her neighbors, she pays taxes on the home in her neighborhood. She works. She comes home to relax and recover for her next workday. She sometimes invites friends over to enjoy each others’ company, to have conversations and a nice meal on a pleasant afternoon. She lives in a part of the world blessed with fine weather for outside living, where a backyard barbeque is a treat. All of these activities are possible when normal backyard noise conditions exist. These activities are destroyed by persistent noise.

20150629scp.. K.Gibbs in TimesCall video

(click on image to view video at start of Ms. Gibbs’ comments)

Mr. Casares is an aviation business owner. He makes money by carrying as many people as possible to an altitude of 17,999 feet (the highest FAA will allow), so they can drop out of an airplane and parachute back to the airport west of Longmont. The faster his airplanes climb, the more profit he makes; so, the aircraft types are selected, and propellers and fuel-flow rates are also selected, to maximize rate of climb. A consequence of these settings (prop RPM, prop pitch, etc.) is that his aircraft make a much higher level of irritant noise than do other small aircraft. So, to keep the airport happy, he simply has his pilots fly a few miles away from Longmont. This ensures that the local airport neighbors do not have to endure a droning climb noise all day long on his most profitable business days. And, as a benefit, the vast majority of people impacted, say 5- to 8- miles away, have no idea that the horrific droning airplane noise is part of a skydive operation, making all that noise heard by thousands of residents, sometimes to serve just 2- or 4- skydivers.

20150629scp.. F.Casares in TimesCall video

(click on image to view video at start of Mr. Casares’ comments)

So, the crux of the problem at Longmont is this: because Mr. Casares’ pilots go miles away from their drop zone to do their long and noisy climbs, other – and more distant – airport neighbors bear the brunt of the noise impact. FAA is granted wide deference in matters that relate to aviation. So, when a case about aviation noise nuisance goes to trial in a U.S. District Court, it is not unusual for the Judge to defer to FAA. But, what the Judge is not factoring in is how deeply FAA serves aviation money, and how the record shows, FAA would really prefer to not waste its time balancing the profit ambitions of aviation businesses to preserve the residential expectation of ‘Peace and Quiet’.

This is what is called a ‘taking’. Mr Casares’ planes fly for his profit, and when FAA lends cover to Mr. Casares, Ms. Gibbs’ home becomes not a place of ‘Peace and Quiet’, but a place to leave on days when skydiving happens. In effect, Mr. Casares, with a little help from FAA, has ‘taken away’ the rights of Ms. Gibbs and her neighbors to enjoy the homes and the liberties we like to think are protected in this nation.

See also… (blue dates link to online content)

5/2/2015
With ears to the sky, judge visits 2 homes in Longmont airplane-noise lawsuit
TimesCall article by Karen Antonacci. Includes webtrak screen captures indicating that, during the site visits by Judge LaBuda, Mile Hi kept their flights miles away, operating in distant parts of the climb box.
5/15/2015
Plaintiff’s Proposed Findings of Fact
22-pages.
5/15/2015
Defendant’s Proposed Findings of Fact
17-pages.
5/21/2015
Decision by Judge LaBuda, Gibbs et al v. Mile-Hi Skydiving (2013CV031563)
3-pages.
PDFs of related documents are attached at pages 2 thru 5.