Jeffco Noise Study Revealed; Touch & Go Operations Cited


Brad Walker, a longtime pilot at Jefferson County, Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Municipal Airport (KBJC; also known  as “Jeffco”), has actively challenged efforts by homeowners to sue the county over noise and lead pollution associated with the airport. Most recently, he filed a request under the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) statute (similar to the federal Freedom of Information Act) to acquire a noise study commissioned by his hometown of Superior, Colorado, which abuts the airport property. His request had been denied, based on attorney-client privilege, but Walker recently acquired a copy of the report and shared it with AVweb.

The study, conducted by the firm Hankard Environmental of Colorado and Wisconsin, measures aircraft noise levels from a site directly under the turn from crosswind-to-downwind of the left traffic pattern. The study, conducted through the month or February 2024, used ADS-B data to differentiate between noise levels of aircraft taking off, landing, performing touch-and-go operations or overflying the airport. Noise levels were further classified by decibel levels above ambient noise—5 dBA “clearly noticeable,” 10 dBA “significant increase” and 20 dBA “much louder.”

Of 6,371 aircraft operations that passed within 1.25 miles of the observation site and registered at least “clearly noticeable” dBA levels, the study noted that just over half were attributed to touch-and-go operations. That determination was based on recorded ADS-B data showing whether aircraft were on the ground; had taken off, landed or overflown; or performed a touch and go. Report: “If the aircraft is airborne and was on the ground within both the past 20 minutes and the next 20 minutes, this sample is classified as a touch and go.”

According to Walker, the report appears to be targeting flight schools’ touch-and-go (T&G) operations. The up-front summary reads: “Over the entire month, aircraft operations were clearly noticeable for 4,234 minutes (71 hours). If T&G operations were not conducted at the airport, an analysis of the measurement data indicates that noticeable aircraft operations would decrease to 1,356 minutes (23 hours), which is a 68% reduction.” The report later reads: “Flight schools are identified based on aircraft registered owner, list of planes and N numbers on each flight school’s website, and observations of aircraft at the airport. Most aircraft are identified as piston-engine … and the majority of them are registered to flight schools.”

Walker is particularly troubled by the use of ADS-B data to track aircraft and aircraft owners, fearing it could lead to legal action. He told AVweb, “This means the Town of Superior is using personal identifying ADS-B information to track airplanes (i.e., much like a license plate reader). This means the town is subject to Colorado laws about passive surveillance.”

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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.


  1. If a modern propeller profile and a basic upgraded muffler were fitted to training aircraft then this issue would shortly abate as noise affects everyone. Us flying folks and us motorcycle folks don`t really mind hearing how our engines are doing and that they`re happy putting out the power we expect of them. Not the same for many of our neighbors. Like the old Harley stickers say ” If I have to explain it to you– you wouldn’t understand”. I think we’d all like to avoid this but we do so at our own discomfort. It shouldn’t take 5 years and a King’s ransom to come up with a better muffler for our training A/C.

    • Some of the noise is most likely due to the props and that is a more difficult issue to tackle. I don’t mind aircraft noise… as a long-time instructor perhaps my hearing is a bit suspect. If you buy a house near an airport, what would you expect? GA is under attack from the uninformed and unfortunately, those same folk have deep pockets and political ties. Our freedom to fly will eventually fade (IMHO)… perhaps not in my lifetime, but for my children and grandchildren.

      I’m OK with mufflers, but for a training aircraft, the issues are probably the lack of compact design, easy installation, and weight? Those factors are well above my expertise and pay grade.

      Quick story… our local airport manage receives regular calls from an airport ‘neighbor’ who constantly complains about their house ‘being buzzed’ and ‘terrible noise from those low flying planes’. He has kept of log of the calls received on days when the weather was not conducive and there were no flights. The manager maintains that it doesn’t matter if airplanes were actually flying… the complaints still come in.

    • You cannot compare aircraft owners to motorcycle operators. Especially HD motorcycles. Having been a pilot and a rider for a few decades now I ask you this: How many aircraft owners take an underpowered stock aircraft and purposely modify it only to make it louder all while thinking “This is going to make me look so COOL! I cannot wait to see everyone looking at me!!”?

      None that I have ever known.

      • Exactly. The reasons our planes have not gotten more quiet is the exact same reason they are so expensive.

        We need policy changes and reforms to fix the actual issues. One of those is to stop ripping up perfectly good airports so that people can can make money by using the law and politics to the detriment of our country from the loss of important infrastructure and from rewarding corruption.

    • You do not seen to realise that if buyers of property anywhere, have a basic expectation of reasonable peace and quiet. Crying “but we were here first” counts for nothing if you take that peace and quiet away — especially if increased flights, noisy aircraft, or just one idiot making low passes over houses enrage property owners….

        • Yes, good idea….then when a plane flies over, and the realtor did not say there would be a plane flying over (you know……because there was a AIRPORT in the area)….the buyer can sue the seller AND the realtor. Sweet deal. Its just not fair that the buyer should have to do any investigation him/herself. The buyer of today gets his groceries delivered, works from home, does not need to bend over to slip his shoes on, and get’s his new car dropped off by Carvana….(hardly worth the trouble to even put on your pants in the morning). What a freaking butt ugly world we live in now.

        • Disclosures were in place and Superior agreed to a certain level of noise and vibration. In return, idiots in JeffCo agreed to limit growth and noise at the airport. They either conveniently forgot or ignored and blew way past what was agreed to over the last few years. Litigation ensued and residents “won”. Now they have no avigation agreeemnt and no obligation to agree the noise and are suing for damages. JeffCo, tenants, and flight schools will lose because someone was dumb enough to ignore agreeemnts.

      • “You do not seen to realise that if buyers of property anywhere, have a basic expectation of reasonable peace and quiet.” Would they expect this along side the Railroad Tracks?

      • A “reasonable expectation of peace and quiet” does not mean “no airplane ever flies over my house.”

  2. This study showed that average “noise” level of the aircraft tested at 56 dBa. The National Institute of Health lists “normal conversation” at 60 dBa. In other words, the people complaining about airport noise are making more noise by complaining about the noise than the noise from aircraft flying overhead. Brad Walker is absolutely correct – these people are tracking our ADSB N-numbers in advance of taking legal action against individual pilots. It costs a ton of money to defend against frivolous lawsuits. They are planning to attack our wallets!

    • That’s the truly relevant number. Probably everyone who complains has a lawnmower that is louder than an airplane overhead.

    • Right, but that’s a monthly average (taken in 5 second increments). So, sometimes less and sometimes more. But if average is at conversational level, that would be a challenge to eat, sleep or get anything done.

  3. Maybe a combination of noise abatement and course deviation procedures on departure and T&G circuits off the runway away from the built up area (12R/30L).
    We have these at my local airfield (also home to a training school) despite the airfield being in existence for >50 years and the properties affected being built in the vicinity in the past 10 years. We also have a “club” rule that the departure runway over the built up area is only to be used if the wind from that direction exceeds 10 kts. Makes for accurate flying.

  4. I used to run a flight school. While doing Touch & Goes, it takes about six minutes to fly each lap around the pattern once you’re out there doing it. They’re measuring -20 minutes to +20 minutes. What kind of traffic pattern do they have that takes 40 minutes? That’s a cross-country leg in a 172.

    • Even if T&Gs are banned, the schools will do “full stop taxi backs” and would still be within 20 minutes.

  5. You can mask your N-number so that it shows up as “Private” on flight aware etc very easily by submitting a LADD request to the FAA. I did it and the change happened very quickly. I was prompted to do that after I reported a plane that flew 350 fee AGL over my house (in a town of 10,000) to the FSDO. After an “investigation” I was told that the owner could not be determined (lack of due diligence), and that the case was closed. I figured I might as well take advantage of that privilege of privacy, even though I scrupulously adhere to 91.119.

  6. The homeowners who bought an affordable house next to JeffCo, with the expectation that their lives would remain idyllic and their property values would only grow, are no different from the folks a few miles from me who got great deals on homes downwind from a small (one aerator tank) municipal sewage treatment plant. There were no problems until the popularity of this affordable and convenient neighborhood wound up requiring upgrades to the plant (it’s now four aerators) and, you guessed it, people are complaining about the smell. And, of course, they want compensation for the “lost value” of their real estate investments.

    (Don’t attempt to impute that I am comparing GA airports to sewer treatment facilities, either.)

    I once had a “customer service” job. (Once. I learned fast that being a curmudgeon was not a “success vector” in that field.) I had a poster on my bulletin board (hidden by announcements and other effluvia until I needed it) that read, “Your Failure to Plan Does Not Constitute an Emergency for Me.”

    The JeffCo neighbors expected their property values to increase over time, yet they object to that same process for their airport neighbor? That’s just selfish and stupid. No sympathy here. Caveat Emptor.

  7. What is the history of Jeffco? When was it established? John Patson pontificates that it “makes no difference who was there first”. He further states that homeowners have certain expectations of peace and quiet. I assume that if I were brain dead, and decided to buy a home next to an airport for peace and quiet…..that I would likewise be “enraged”. I expect to not have to enjoy the smell of weed blowing across from my neighbors fence, too. To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld, PEOPLE……(and lawyers)………are the worst.

  8. I live under the downwind of an airport. In my experiece, the leaf blowers and lawn mowers make far greater noise, for much longer durations and much closer to our living rooms. Has anyone done a comparison of these other noise sources? Also, the decibels itself is not sufficient to quantify the noise. The duration also matters (ie total acoustic energy).

  9. I’m wondering if the noise data was taken from an outdoor location with no consideration for what a homeowner might experience inside of their home, where they would spend the majority of their time. A modest investment in in their home’s construction I.e. windows and attic insulation might make the noise imperceptible. Yesterday AvWeb published that Torrence California’s airport received 27,000 complaints in 2023 generated from just 54 individuals. Those complaining weren’t targeting the industrial sections nor the nearby traffic noise, just the airport traffic. Their whole daily existence seems to be focused on eradicating a community asset. I wonder if any life flight services are located at that airport which would leave residents without quick response of medical transportation should this group prevail.

    • “Those complaining weren’t targeting the industrial sections nor the nearby traffic noise, just the airport traffic.”

      To be fair, we don’t know that. They may be generalized rather than specific misanthropes.

  10. I spend most days at an airport; some operators are louder than others.
    Jamming the prop full forward on downwind; noisy; waiting till descending on base; quiet.
    “Seaplane” props; ridiculous; really loud, but actually produce less thrust because of extreme tip speed; look it up!
    A problem is our North American 2700 rpm on takeoff engines; European engines are often geared with lower prop rpm; better for noise.
    Europe has noise standards; implemented because flyers were oblivious.
    These standards often require mufflers; they do exist.
    More advanced props are often quieter; three or more blades.
    Deltahawk has created a wonderful new engine, but direct drive; noise from prop rpm.
    They may have to run the higher power versions at lower rpm/hp to pass standards.
    I agree that anyone who moves near an airport should have no right to complain, but that is not reality.
    Developers are often behind the noise complaints; they should be exposed.
    Having said all that; we should all try to operate safely, but consider how we operate from a noise standard.
    The other side of it is political action; get in front of local issues by knowing when developments are proposed; make sure developers and realtors are required to advise buyers that an airport is nearby and there will be noise.

  11. People are going to be people, some are easy going, others want to complain about anything that they can. I’m a fixed wing pilot and a LTA hot air balloon pilot. I fly the airplane (PA-28R) from a small airport with a subdivision that has built up around it. In that subdivision there is one older family that owned the land around one side of the airport and built the subdivision 25 years after the airport was built. Out of the subdivision that is the only people complain about airport “Noise”, and if there are several airplanes coming and going will come over to the airport to “See What is going On” and complain about the “noise” we’re making.

    Then there are the guy that I flew over one time in 30 plus years with a student in the balloon one Saturday morning. We were a good 3/4 mile from his house and he chased the crew down and as one of the other crew members stated “Chewed the students wife out” for flying over his land and disturbing his piece and quiet that he had moved out in the country for. (Guy owned 400 acres). There are some people that no matter what, If they can find something to complain about there are going to take that opportunity to let you know how much of an unhappy person they are.

    • As a physician I can make a clear diagnosis on that guy with no further data. Hype-loser-osis ani.

  12. This is a growing threat to general aviation throughout the country. Flight schools locate (like any other business):
    1) where there are the necessary infrastructure facilities (airports)
    2) where their customers live (airports near population centers)
    3) where they can find qualified employees (airports near population centers with trained instructors and others with aviation backgrounds).

    Flight training is the lifeblood of an airport. If the few NIMBYs who move near an airport and can shut it down with arguments such as discussed in this article, there will no longer be GA pilots, aircraft owners, airport businesses and national organizations like the AOPA, NBAA.

    • I bet the same people who complain about airplane noise are the same who complain the loudest when their airline flight is cancelled or delayed due to lack of pilots (or ATC.) Flight training is the only way to fix the pilot shortage. NBAA, AOPA, ATA, et al need to lobby for legislation to protect flight schools and airports from frivolous complaints. The airlines need to step up and help protect the GA airports, or someday they’ll find no pilots available to hire…

  13. The Sling Flight Academy in Torrance, CA, has been doing commendable work on reducing the noise output of their fleet. They’ve posted articles and videos about it: search for Sling Whisper. Basically the formula is Rotax 912 engine, with a long muffler (which apparently slightly increased power output), sound insulation inside the cowl, and a new propeller. They’re working not just to reduce the absolute noise level, but also reduce the “annoying” qualities of the sound. Their tests showed that the standard Sling doesn’t even approach city noise limits (of 82 dB); that the biggest variable for noise is propeller RPM; and that increasing the pattern altitude (within reason) has minimal effect. In a recent video they reported that a new Catto prop reduced propeller noise substantially.

    This is the kind of work that GA should have done 30 years ago, but didn’t. Great to see it happening now, at least. The “manual says low pitch, high manifold pressure, and who cares about the NIMBYs” attitude is – and has long been – a huge problem that hurts all of us.

    And, for the “we were here first” crowd, the accurate answer is “there’s more of them; game over.” But also consider that no, for this takeoff, or this landing, they were here first – you just arrived.

    • Really? There’s more of them, game over? That’s our country now?

      Hey, minorities, sorry about how you are have been mistreated, but you are a minority so, game over!

      Look all you people just don’t have the right religious views, but there’s more of them, game over.

      Please, how about we at least try to discuss right and wrong civilly. The reason we don’t have more new airplanes built after 1980 except in small numbers which cannot reach economy of scale is not because pilots wanted loud airplanes. Innovation was halted by bad laws and bad policies AND THE DESTRUCTION OF AIR PORTS NEAR POPULATIONS AND DESTINATIONS!

      No new airplanes are now affordable. You are blaming the victims and telling us to go pound sand because a bunch of people want to bully us around to make a little money. And, they are unethical about it. We have been paying for those airports. We bought them with taxes, and we also collectively paid with blood.

      There is no place to hide from people who will use the government and law to steal. Stop supporting them.

      I’ve got no more patience for this Neville Chamberlain act. It will not matter what noise they would settle for. They are dishonest, and they will simply find new reasons to sue until they are beaten.

      Save all the quiet airplane stuff for another discussion. Feel free to get together with your airport community to do something about the worst offenders. Let’s just stick together on these stories about people harassing airports for profit, okay?

      • There is more to this than noise and tetraethyl lead. However, the FAA should be promoting technology that solves some of these problems.

        Except for avionics, there has been little innovation in the GA fleet. We have effectively seen significant changes in jet technology but GA has stagnated.

        Having discussed these issues with some community members in LGB it appears that there is no middle ground or compromise for leaders of these groups. The airport is making less noise than it did 30 years ago. Heck, it’s making less noise than it did just 5 years ago.

    • True. Noise, safety and even (pseudo)lead concerns are all fronts. It’s about the real estate, and perhaps a few CO2 and/or wealth haters.

  14. Both of You, Mr. Arthur J Foyt and Mr. Willian are absolutely correct. The others considerations are only “to much talk” and “no badge”.

  15. We have similar problems which prompted me to write to the local paper. I append a copy here which offers a different approach to the problem. It may help the “Jeffco” operators.

    “Sunburnt and Noise.

    Many readers will wonder at the relationship between the two.

    Many moons ago it was said that soldiers who got badly sunburnt should be court-martialed for “self inflicted injury”. Militarily speaking they were no longer able bodied fighting men.

    Kapiti Coast Airport (Paraparaumu aerodrome) was built in 1939 and any resident who moved to the area after that date and complains about noise is akin to the sunburnt soldier. “Self inflicted injury “. It is great pity that Justin Wong promoted the negative rather than discus the positives of Paraparaumu having an airport that has featured in search and rescue operations for trampers and boaties in the area. For residents with a sick child that requires an urgent flight to STARSHIP hospital by Life Flight, noise is not upper most in their mind, full stop. Having a public utility asset in the form of an airport may be without merit until needed.

    To me, I think it is a big ask that the nearly three hundred members of Kapiti Aero Club should forego their hobby, pastime or avocation because someone chose, rather than be directed, to live close by an airport.

    I could go on but won’t. Yes, I used to fly from Kapiti Coast Airport.”

  16. Flight schools and training flights are cranked up full bore to meet the pilot crunch. This has created a problem of training traffic patterns being extremely large reaching out miles over communities that formally never had an aircraft from a particular airport fly overhead. I fly out of CFO and when I want to practice T&G in my taildragger in our pattern along with students, the pattern size can sometimes reach out east of Bennett, Colorado before I can make a base turn, which usually has to be called by the tower, so now, Bennett now has plane noise. I have to limit my number of landings and take-offs because of the massive time and fuel it takes to do even one landing. So you say, fly to another airport for your practice. Well, today, that solves nothing, it takes more fuel to do that, and even rural country airports are now full of students.