We Need Congress to Fix FAA’s Problems…

…and here is one recent success connecting with a Congressman.

In this example, the citizen started by contacting  his member of the House of Representatives (use this link to locate yours, using only your zip code). An email address was then located, and a pair of emails was sent with the following points:

  1. Millions of American citizens live in residential areas where they’ve purposefully bought homes away from noise so they can relax in peace and quiet after a day of work; especially on weekends when it’s time to enjoy family and friends outdoors and rest up for the week ahead.  When we buy a home in a peaceful neighborhood, we have the right to expect that the peace and quiet we bought with our property will remain with us unless we give our consent or participate in a formal decision-making process to allow a noisy activity to impact us at a later date.  The way the FAA rules stand today, there is effectively nothing to stop any new aviation activity from starting-up, or an existing aviation activity from expanding as much as it wants without restraint based out of a GA airport located in a residential area.  These noisy activities take something very valuable away from a large number of surrounding residents without their consent, to benefit the commercial interests of a few who often don’t even live in the surrounding area.  These aviation activities like sight-seeing flights, aerobatics, banner tows, intensive flight training, skydiving operations, etc. add significant noise to the residential environment to the detriment of the quality of life, health and property values of surrounding residents.  The FAA has a history of blocking actions taken by residents and local authorities to control such noise-making activities at GA airports which start-up, or begin to grow after residents buy their homes in otherwise peaceful areas.  The situation today is effectively out of control, damages the quality of life for millions of residents without any realistic recourse, and risks the future quality of life of millions more, unless something is done by Congress to put effective controls in place.
  2. The block the FAA maintains on the ability of citizens and local authorities to control the growth of noise-making aviation activities based out of GA airports has been so effective that local courts and law enforcement have given up, and so have large numbers of residents.  Understanding and navigating the FAA’s fuzzy rules has to date been a waste of time, and local authorities now routinely defer outright to the noise-makers, making it essentially pointless for residents to waste their time complaining.  This damages the quality of life of millions of citizens, and risks the quality of life for millions more in the future by fostering a state of virtual lawlessness with respect to the noise-making activities of such aviation business, unless something is done by Congress to put effective controls in place.
  3. The regulatory and enforcement framework for addressing community noise impacts from aviation activities based out of GA airports is completely out of step with other quality of life standards.  For example, the EPA has stated that outdoor noise levels of more than 55 dbA interfere with activity and cause annoyance.  But the FAA noise standard for aircraft from GA airports allows the 55 dbA noise level to be exceeded repeatedly over long periods of time above our homes in residential areas.  As a further example, many residential areas have ordinances that require the explicit consent of neighbors before building or re-painting a structure (or even erecting solar panels that benefit the whole community) on the owner’s property, lest the neighbors find it an eyesore.  These structures and paint colors make no noise at all and their impact can be avoided by simply averting one’s eyes.  Yet the FAA allows recreational aircraft from GA airports to routinely overfly distant neighborhoods and produce repeated noise impacts without the consent of residents and which cannot be avoided by residents as the noise comes from above and can’t be escaped – and all this for the benefit of non-essential, profit-making recreational aviation activities.  The FAA’s disregard for this important quality of life parameter will remain unchecked unless something is done by Congress to put effective controls in place.
  4. Although NextGen implementation is creating many high-profile noise impacts, the Quiet Skies Caucus also needs to address impacts created at General Aviation airports. For example, residents in Longmont, CO, Molalla, OR, Cloverdale, CA, Chatham, MA, Tecumseh, MI, Lancaster, OH, Oak Harbor, WA, and probably many others, are repeatedly faced with quality of life impacts from aviation operations associated with skydiving and other recreational businesses. Under current practice, these businesses are allowed to operate with little or no effective federal oversight or local control of their noise impacts on surrounding residents, many of whom live several miles distant from the GA airport.
  5. Records show that at one airport impacted by just one aggressive skydiving operator, 60% of all weekend flights during the year 2014 were for skydiving.  This massive amount of slow-moving, low-altitude, excessively noisy air traffic consisted of 55 or more skydiving flights a day on all spring, summer and fall weekends. Each flight would climb slowly, passing multiple times over residential neighborhood six or more miles away from the airport, and producing 70 or more noise incidents in those neighborhoods on each weekend day (and many of the events peaked at over 70 dbA). Many residents would hear the same skydive aircraft for ten or more minutes during each climb. Entire weekends were destroyed.
  6. Furthermore, noise-making businesses like Skydiving have undertaken deliberate strategies to befuddle and spread misinformation in order to dodge accountability.  They export their noise to locations beyond the hearing-range of local airport neighbors, by consistently doing their noisy climbs at 3-10 miles away from the actual airport. The impacted residents are often unaware that the noise is related to skydiving. Thus, the local authorities receive fewer complaints. And, the near-airport residents, being less impacted, are less inclined to vote out the elected officials who are failing to manage the airport noise problem.
  7. And then there is the problem of FAA’s flawed noise metrics. Current FAA regulations measure noise exposure using a summation called the Day-Night Level metric (DNL).  Mitigation or abatement procedures are only implemented if the DNL is above 65 dbA DNL. This metric is currently applied on a one-size-fits-all basis to national air transportation hubs, as well as to GA airports in residential areas which support primarily recreational activities where we believe a different noise standard more reflective of the real noise impact should be used.

He also signed on to the Petition seeking congressional action to reduce airplane noise. Here’s the writer’s closing comment, in the letter he sent to his congressional rep. He got a positive response, as the Congressman assured that these noise issues were among his top priorities for FAA Reauthorization…

“It’s my hope moving forward that as the FAA bill is reauthorized, we can show through a collaborative and balanced approach, that the impact of these operations on our communities should be taken into account and their mitigation promoted as a part of a shift at the FAA and nationally to be better neighbors and move toward effective noise mitigation strategies applicable to GA airports.”