FAA plans major study of noise at US airports due to anger at introduction of “NextGen” with new flight paths
In the USA, the FAA – equivalent to the CAA in the UK – is now planning to study aircraft noise across the USA. The main aim is to defuse opposition to changes to flight paths, and save the aviation industry delays in implementing the new system. The FAA will begin polling communities around 20 airports within the next 2 – 3 months, and finish gathering data by the end of 2016. While some newer planes are marginally less noisy than older models, there are now more flights. The FAA has also been introducing “NextGen”, which is the US equivalent of PBN or PR-NAV in the UK – meaning planes navigate accurately by satellite, rather than the old system. This allows narrower flight paths, and more intense noise for those overflown. The aim of NextGen, and PBN is to save the airlines time and fuel, and therefore money. Airspace controllers can control planes more accurately, and have them landing and taking off closer to each other than before. There has been intense opposition from communities now finding themselves newly overflown. There is anger at the inadequate way in which aircraft noise is measured and averaged. The FAA will see if it needs to make changes to this.
The Federal Aviation Administration plans to study airport noise across the United States to determine whether policy-makers need to change the way they measure noise from passing aircraft.
Describing the project as the most comprehensive single U.S. noise survey conducted, the FAA said it would begin polling communities around 20 airports by mail and telephone within the next two to three months.
The agency, which did not identify the airports, hoped to finish gathering data by the end of 2016.
“Aircraft manufacturers (have) incorporated technologies that resulted in dramatically quieter aircraft. However, residents around many of the largest U.S. airports have expressed concerns about aircraft noise associated with the continuing growth of the aviation industry,” the agency said.
The aim is to determine whether or not the FAA should change its approach to measuring aircraft noise and to examine land uses near airports.
Medical studies have linked elevated noise levels from aircraft, auto traffic and other sources to health problems including hypertension and heart disease.
Meanwhile, air traffic continues to grow.
In 2014, airlines carried nearly 850 million passengers, up from just over 700 million in 2003, and passenger traffic is expected to climb at a rate of 2.2 percent a year over the next two decades, according to government research.
The FAA currently measures aircraft noise on a scale that averages all community noise during a 24-hour period, with a ten-fold penalty for noise that occurs during night and early morning hours. The approach is based on transportation noise surveys conducted in the 1970s.
In 1981, the FAA established 65 decibels as the average guideline at which federal funding should become available for soundproofing or other noise mitigation.
Next Generation Air Transportation System
The FAA estimates that increasing congestion in the air transportation system of the United States, if unaddressed, would cost the American economy $22 billion annually in lost economic activity by 2022. It also estimates that by 2018, NextGen will reduce aviation fuel consumption by 1.4 billion gallons, reduce emissions by 14 million tons and save $23 billion in costs. Each mile in the air costs an airline about $0.10-$0.15 per seat in operating expenses like flight crew and fuel. Flying directly from one airport to the next and reducing congestion around airports can reduce the time and miles spent in the air for the same trip.
Once implemented, NextGen will allow pilots and dispatchers to select their own direct flight path, rather than using a grid-like highway system. By 2020, aircraft are expected to be equipped to tell pilots exactly what their location is in relation to other aircraft, enabling planes to fly closer together safely. By providing more information to ground control and planes, planes are expected to land faster, navigate through weather better and reduce taxi times so flights and airports themselves can run more efficiently. The increased scope, volume and distribution of information is intended to help planes land faster, improve weather forecasts, automation and information sharing, as well as reduce taxi times.
Another issue in implementing NextGen is expediting environmental reviews and developing strategies to address the environmental impacts of NextGen. A previous GAO report on environmental impacts at airports indicated that the changes in aircraft flight paths that will accompany NextGen efforts would affect some communities that were previously unaffected or minimally affected by aircraft noise and expose them to increased noise levels. These levels could trigger the need for environmental reviews, as well as raise community concerns. The report found that addressing environmental impacts can delay the implementation of operational changes, and indicated that a systematic approach to addressing these impacts and the resulting community concerns may help reduce such delays. It is worth noting that the FAA is working on developing environmental review processes that affect NextGen activities.
One of the first NextGen routes to be implemented was the “TNNIS” route emanating from New York’s LaGuardia airport. The route has resulted in strong opposition from neighboring communities in the borough of Queens, NY. A 2013 New York Times article quoted area residents describing the conditions created by TNNIS as “unbearable”. Largely because of TNNIS, residents successfully lobbied New York governor Andrew Cuomo to order a Part 150 noise compatibility study and establish a community aviation roundtable with the Port Authority. The FAA still refuses to conduct a full environmental impact study on the route.
FAA’s new air traffic control system NextGen causing major noise pollution
30.1.2015 (CBS)America’s antiquated air traffic control system is getting an upgrade.The overhaul is designed to keep up with increasing air travel and the push for on-time flights. But parts of the country, including the area hosting Super Bowl XLIX, are paying a steep price for progress, reports CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy.
Nicole Marquez just moved her bedroom into the middle of her house and put Plexiglas on all of her windows. She lives in Phoenix, so it’s not to keep the heat in, but rather to keep the noise out.
“If you can imagine yourself at an air show, that’s what it would sound like,” Marquez said.
She said there is a constant barrage of airplanes flying over her home in a historic neighborhood near downtown Phoenix — every 30 seconds for hours at a time.
“You’re going to rip your hair out. 6 o’ clock in the evening, you’re ripping your hair out trying to eat dinner,” Marquez said. “Am I angry? Absolutely. I’m furious.”
This is the unintended consequence of the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). It uses satellites instead of old-fashioned radar to guide airplanes. This allows for more planes in the air, safely spaced closer together, and burning less fuel because their flight paths are more direct.
But in Phoenix, that change mean planes that used to take off and turn nine miles out now make that turn at two to three miles, flying low over heavily populated neighborhoods. Noise complaints have taken off too, soaring from 221 in all of 2013 to more than 3,300 in just the past four months since the flight paths were changed.
Greg Stanton, Mayor of Phoenix, said the FAA did not hold a single public hearing notifying neighbors of the change, nor did the agency ever meet with him. The FAA said it did notify the airport as far back as 2012.
Stanton said he feels blind-sided by the FAA.
“I think that the choice that was made to have such a disproportionate impact over such a small number of people is really fundamentally unfair and unacceptable,” he said.
A 2012 Congressional FAA authorization bill fast-tracked the roll out of NextGen by exempting it from normal environmental impact reviews and public hearings. The FAA declined CBS News’ request for an interview.
“It’s the Federal Aviation Administration, not the federal arrogance administration,” New York Congressman Steve Israel said.
He said NextGen is also causing problems for people in the Northeast as flight paths at JFK and LaGuardia airports are also changing. He wants the FAA to start meeting home owners as it rolls out NextGen across the country through 2025.
“I’m not asking for NextGen to be rolled back. I’m not asking for it to be reduced. I’m asking for the FAA to be sensitive to community concerns and ensure that not one community bears the noise, but that there’s a fair and common sense distribution in the vicinity of airports,” Israel said.
Nicole Marquez said NextGen may be good for the country and the airline industry, but the pain should be shared.
“I don’t think that the airlines should be able to bank on other people’s misery,” she said.