Jangled By Airport Noise
I think I’m about to be voted off the island. Or maybe I’ll just slip out on my own at the next high tide. The reason is that I’m going to go a little rogue here.
I’m really starting to detest airport noise, if not necessarily airplane noise. I reached this conclusion awhile ago, but it rose to a crescendo yesterday, if I may borrow the appropriate acoustic adjective.
When I go to the airport, it’s frequently to shoot video. Video has audio. So things like voices need to be recorded with sufficient clarity to at least be intelligible, if not broadcast quality. I was trying to set up a shot and kept hearing an annoying screech in my earphones. It was a bizjet either idling or running the APU. It was ¼-mile away. It went on, and on, and on, all of which time I spent sitting on my butt waiting it for it to move.
When it finally did and I reset the camera, a Bonanza taxied up right in front of the hangar on what used to be the old city ramp. The pilot, a distinguished, silver-haired man, entertained us all with a high-power runup that went on, and on, and on. There are several things wrong with this. First of all, the airport has a policy that requests that runups be done on a closed runway (now a taxiway) in the center of the airport. This so reduces ambient noise that you hardly notice any noise at all. It’s a good policy.
Second, that old ramp borders on the airport fence which itself is fronted by several apartment complexes. So anyone running an APU or doing a high power runup will just blast the hell of out them. Not that long ago, I had no patience with airport neighbors who complain about noise. I suspect most of us in aviation don’t. Hey, they moved there and knew full well that the airport was there.
That said, I think we sometimes do a lousy job of understanding the concerns of people who live around airports. If you want to sense life on the other side of the airport fence, read this Air&Space Magazine piece about besieged Santa Monica Airport.
While we’re all rightfully outraged at the city’s heavy-handed pressure on tenants to get out of Santa Monica, there’s another story to be told, too.
In Europe, local governments are so hard over on noise that some airports actually close on the weekends. I’ve always felt that a little extreme, but I’m beginning to understand it. In the U.S., we tend to sniff at electric airplanes, but in Europe, they’re looking more and more attractive because of their low noise signature. Interestingly, the only electric airplane I’ve flown, the Pipistrel Alpha Electro, is just as loud as a piston from inside the cockpit. From outside, it’s the definition of stealth.
Recall a few weeks ago in this blog, a couple of commenters complained about the noisy airshow at AirVenture, where you more or less pay to have your ears assaulted. It’s not so much the noise itself as it is the incessant, hammering nature of just getting no relief from it. I think that’s why I don’t mind landings and takeoffs much; they’re transients. Maybe one exception; the idiots who flatten the prop on downwind at high power. Ya know, you can save that for short final.
That guy’s Bonanza runup was just unnecessary and inconsiderate, since he had the option of taxiing to the designated pad. Many jet operators just let the APU screech away because they want the cabin nice and cool so the boss won’t break a sweat. I get it. But is it too much for us to think of minimizing such on-the-ground noise in consideration of people who live nearby? I wonder if it’s not a good idea to explain this to a charter buyer or aircraft owner. I wonder if they would be sympathetic.
I used to chafe at airport noise-monitoring instruments as just another example of government overreach. But at our airport, there are no consequences for someone who ignores the friendly request to runup where it will make less noise. The AWOS says “fly friendly” and I take that to mean be as quiet as practical and safe. I wouldn’t mind if the airport took it upon itself to make a polite phone call to pilots to remind them to be courteous.
As badly as my day started, it didn’t get much better. A hangar neighbor pulled his airplane out, started it and stayed there. And stayed there. And stayed there. I shouldn’t bitch, I suppose. On airports, airplanes have the right of way over videographers; says so right in the FARs.
All the same, the next YouTuber that asks me to fix my audio problems stops one.