FAA, Aviation Advocates Report To Lawmakers On Aircraft Noise Issue


The FAA, buttressed by aviation advocacy groups, reported to the aviation subcommittee of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure last week on aircraft noise. While the committee heard that outreach to the public could be improved, the number of residents affected by aircraft noise has “declined significantly” over the past several decades. Specifically, Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., cited that 7 million people reported being exposed to significant levels of aircraft noise in 1970. That number dipped to 430,000 by 2018—even though flight activity and population have both risen significantly. The congressman noted that technological advances made aircraft quieter, and state and local governments have leveraged their authority to reduce the number of people living in areas with significant noise levels.

Rep. Pete Stauber, R-Minn., told the committee there will likely always be discontent over aircraft noise. He said, “There are plenty of folks who will never be happy with any amount of effort that industry, the community or the airport itself puts in to mitigate noise and disturbances.”

“As we move forward,” Graves said, “we have to make sure that we continue to take into consideration the complaints and concerns raised by those that are affected. But also, we have to take into consideration the benefits of commercial air travel and general aviation that have had a tremendous impact on this country’s growth, convenience, ability to improve quality of life and business, capability to see relatives and other things.”

In written testimony to the committee, NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen cited decades of voluntary “Fly Neighborly” campaigns to reduce noise pollution and further maintained, “[The aviation infrastructure] network, which already provides valuable and verifiable benefits for the local communities it serves, will become vital in supporting the emerging advanced air mobility (AAM) sector. AAM will allow communities around existing airports to further take advantage of this valuable aviation infrastructure, as well as create opportunities to build more facilities to support aircraft with vertical take-off and landing capabilities.”

Still, a Government Accountability Office report filed last year determined that more could be done to interface with communities and residents about proposed changes in flight paths—many resulting from greater efficiencies resulting from the NextGen-driven switch from ground-based to satellite-based navigation capability. Heather Krause, the GAO’s director of physical infrastructure, said current procedures don’t “provide a clear picture of how changes in flight paths or activity may affect noise levels at a given location.”

Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. Rep Stauber hit this issue right on the nose! There will always be some who are never happy with any noise mitigation. An article on another publication points out the GAO looking for more PBN procedures. That would be great if the FAA doesn’t require extra training and authorization to use such procedures, increasing cost for users.

  2. Chronic whiners, once appeased, are never satisfied. Maybe the decline of complaints about airplane noise is somewhat to do with the whiners finding different targets over the past “few decades”.

  3. I live directly under a busy airway at the seashore. We never have noise issues with the airlines or business jets. (the nearest airport is 20 miles away.) It’s always light airplane circling around below a safe altitude in the event of an engine failure. It doesn’t bother me but it sure is noticeable. I have no doubt it pisses off some of the non-pilot neighbors. I doubt any effort by industry will change this behavior of that small percentage of idiots.

    • Are you under Class B?

      Controllers in Class B areas generally slam all piston aircraft down to the lowest altitude possible, and it’s pretty hard, if not impossible, to talk your way out of it. Controllers seem to like set procedures, and they seem to like having plenty of safety valves just in case. So, if there’s a spot that the twelfth jet out of three won’t need, that’s where they send the piston planes every time.

      Also, the piston plane activity often has no business in the Class B, so all the training flights, the class B avoiders, and engine maintenance runs in the area end up just outside or under the Bravo airspace.

  4. In the ’60s, prior to high-bypass fan-jet engines, I lived in Burbank, CA about a mile out under the departure path from the Burbank airport. Every jet departure created 20 seconds or so of total auditory blockage. Conversation, music, TV, telephone, all came to a halt. THAT was noise pollution.

    Noise mitigation measures are now well into the realm of diminishing returns as far as transport category operations are concerned, so as Terps comments above, much of today’s complaining originates from low-altitude piston & helicopter operations. Unfortunately, a significant portion of this is triggered by pilots who are oblivious or even antagonistic to the even the simplest and most obvious “good neighbor” practices. Just a week or two back I was tasked with reviewing video recordings in an (unsuccessful) attempt to determine the registration number of some doofus who initiated a mid-field liftoff turnout at wingspan altitude and crossed the nearest row of homes within the adjacent residential area at less than 150 feet.

    • Not trying to justify the pilot actions described in the last sentence but it does bring up the argument on where houses are built next to airports, and whether those homeowners knew about the airport when those homes where purchased. The courts have been less willing to rule against airports on noise issues so those that are complaining about noise are going to politicians to complain. We all know how that can turn out.

      • Your point about “we were here first” is well taken, but…our requests that avigation easements on (over) the properties used for the new developments that have surrounded us over the years be made a requirement for their permitting have mostly gone nowhere. They are looked at as a “taking” of property rights and the developers feel they would reduce the prices they can ask. Notifications that the properties may be impacted by airplane noise are there but are buried in the voluminous paperwork that no buyer ever reads. Development means taxes and you can’t fight money.
        So what we are left with is begging the “doofuses” not to do the stupid things that set them off.

  5. I’d like to complain about the Rifle Range a half mile away – I can hear them on a quiet night.

    I’d like to complain about that stupid loss prevention robot in the Supermarket that goes “beep beep beep beep” all the time it is moving.

    I’d like to complain about the MUZAK at the supermarket, in the elevator, in the hotel lobby,

    I’d like to complain about the jet skis at the beach

    I’d like to complain about the motorcycle packs with straight pipes that sit at the red light outside the house blipping their throttles till the light turns green (on this one I might have a point….)

    In fact I’d just like to complain…..

  6. I think we’re probably in the realm of diminishing returns when it comes to aircraft noise reduction, particularly in jets and helicopters. Reasonable measures and noise abatement procedures are ubiquitous and modern jet engines are so quiet you can clearly hear the noise generated by the airframe itself. It has been interesting looking at development material for engines, including noise reduction measures and design features, in my career as an engineer in the gas turbine industry. Engineers of the 40s and 50s would be impressed at what has been done in the name of efficiency and noise reduction.

    Having read through complaints filed about noise at a couple of my local airports, especially at the local private jet serving public airport, there is a pattern of repeat complainers who have written in a manner that could best be described as hysterical. A couple of them seem to complain every time a plane flies over their houses. I have even heard of complaint about the mosquito control helicopter noise, a relatively infrequent flyover of an old Huey at night during peak mosquito season. Some people are impossible to please and would settle for nothing less than the closure of the airport, and the sad thing is that these airports I’m speaking of are almost guaranteed to predate the arrival of every single resident around them (1941 and 1936).