New flight routes (NextGen or PBN) may save airlines time, but they damage health of those suffering the extra noise on the ground

More planes are flying directly over densely populated areas, due to airport computer systems that automatically chart the most “efficient” routes – so airlines can save fuel (= money).  A new study by researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health concludes that the benefits of the reduced flight times are outweighed by the health effects on residents below, who suffer from the noise burden. Looking at the increase in noise pollution around New York City’s LaGuardia Airport since routes were changed when NextGen (concentrated, accurate routes, all planes along approximately the same line) was implemented in 2012, the researchers determined that people living in certain Queens neighbourhoods will lose an average of one year of good health over the course of their lifetimes, due to their heightened risk of cardiovascular disease and other ailments linked to stress. They looked at costs and quality-adjusted life years (QALYs).  “Ideally, airports should be built farther away from urban centres,” says lead author Peter Muennig, a professor of health policy and management. “The next-best option is to use flight patterns that send planes over green space, waterways, and industrial areas.”
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New Flight Routes Save Time but Damage Health

 

More airplanes are flying directly over densely populated areas, thanks to airport computer systems that automatically chart the most efficient routes.

But a new study by researchers at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health concludes that the benefits of the reduced flight times are outweighed by the health effects on residents below.

Looking at the increase in noise pollution around New York City’s LaGuardia Airport since routes were changed in 2012, the researchers determined that people living in certain Queens neighborhoods will lose an average of one year of good health over the course of their lifetimes, due to their heightened risk of cardiovascular disease and other ailments linked to stress.

“Ideally, airports should be built farther away from urban centers,” says lead author Peter Muennig ’98PH, a professor of health policy and management. “The next-best option is to use flight patterns that send planes over green space, waterways, and industrial areas.”

https://magazine.columbia.edu/article/new-flight-routes-save-time-damage-health

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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 201815(8), 1753;

The Trade-Off between Optimizing Flight Patterns and Human Health: A Case Study of Aircraft Noise in Queens, New York, USA

1  Global Research Analytics for Population Health, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, NY 10032, USA
2  Pharmaceutical Health Services Research, University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA
3  Queens Quiet Skies, P.O. Box 604888, Bayside, New York, NY 11360-4888, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 24 May 2018 / Revised: 2 July 2018 / Accepted: 27 July 2018 / Published: 15 August 2018

Abstract

Objectives:Airports in the U.S. have gradually been transitioning to automated flight systems. These systems generate new flight paths over populated areas. While they can improve flight efficiency, the increased noise associated with these novel flight patterns potentially pose serious health threats to the overflown communities.

In this case study, we estimated the monetary benefits relative to health losses associated with one significant change in flight patterns at LaGuardia Airport, year-round use of “TNNIS Climb”, which happened in 2012 as a result of flight automation in New York City.
Prior to that, the use of the TNNIS Climb was limited to the U.S. Open tennis matches.
Methods: We developed a decision-analytic model using Markov health states to compare the costs and quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) gained associated with the limited use of TNNIS (old status quo) and the year-round use of TNNIS (current status quo).
The TNNIS Climb increases airplane noise to above 60 decibels (dB) over some of the most densely populated areas of the city.
We used this increased exposure to noise as the basis for estimating ground-level health using data from sound monitors.
The total costs (including both direct and indirect costs), QALYs, and the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) were estimated for the limited versus the year-round use of the TNNIS Climb.
Results: The incremental lifetime costs and QALYs per person exposed to noise associated with the limited versus the year-round use of TNNIS was $11,288, and 1.13, respectively. Therefore, the limited use of TNNIS had an ICER of $10,006/QALY gained relative to the year-round of TNNIS. Our analyses were robust to changes in assumptions and data inputs.
Conclusions: Despite increases in efficiency, flight automation systems without a careful assessment of noise might generate flight paths over densely populated areas and cause serious health conditions for the overflown communities.
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See earlier:

Citizens in major cities across the USA will unite on Saturday 24th for #NoFlyDay – against NextGen

On Saturday 24th October, thousands of citizens in major cities across the USA will be protesting – to mark #NoFlyDay – a national movement to restore peace and quiet to communities where it has been destroyed by the FAA’s NextGen (like PBN in the UK) program. The organisers say the protests will draw attention to the FAA’s brazen disregard of citizens’ health and welfare, being put at risk by NextGen’s program to redesign airspace and modernize air traffic control.  They want Congress to put the program on hold until major modifications are made.  “The FAA is in the process of building an interstate highway in the sky largely under the radar of the American public,” said a #NoFlyDay organiseer. “Their formula is simple: tell as few people as possible, use vague language, and in some cases disregard community outreach and input all together. This is a gross violation of our right to due process under the law.”  In 2012 the FAA led Congress to believe that NextGen would have “no significant noise impacts” and convinced it to pass a bill exempting NextGen from the environmental review process and from public hearings. People are angry at how the FAA has behaved, and want all Americans protected from unacceptable levels of jet noise, and their health impacts.    

http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/2015/10/citizens-in-major-cities-across-the-usa-will-unite-on-saturday-24th-for-noflyday-against-nextgen/

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Judge in Phoenix, Arizona, orders mediation between FAA and City in flight path dispute

In June, the City of Phoenix, Arizona, sued the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) over flight path changes – part of NextGen – that have led to aircraft noise that has been plaguing parts of the city and historic neighbourhoods. The noise problem started in September 2014 when the FAA implemented the new flight paths. There were suddenly thousands of noise complaints, with anger at the noise and its impacts on health and quality of life, and impact on house prices. The City authorities said the FAA didn’t properly study how the change would impact residents. The City has tried  to resolve the issues with the FAA, but without success. Now a judge has ordered that the FAA and City of Phoenix try and work out an agreement in mediation, which might avoid a lengthy legal battle. Many residents would like to see flight paths reverting to how they were before August 2014, but that may be unlikely. However the mediation is not binding, which means without an agreement, the issue could head back to court.   

http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/2016/01/judge-in-phoenix-arizona-orders-mediation-between-faa-and-city-in-flight-path-dispute/

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See earlier:

In USA the FAA’s new air traffic control system NextGen is causing major noise pollution

The American Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)’s new air traffic control system NextGen is causing considerable upset in parts of the USA, in the same way that precision navigation that is being promoted by the CAA is in the UK. The overhaul of airspace and flight paths in the USA is intended to save airlines fuel and time. But the new routes are causing misery to the people who now find themselves, unexpectedly and with no warning, under them. One resident, in Phoenix, said:  “If you can imagine yourself at an air show, that’s what it would sound like.” Planes sometimes every 30 seconds for hours at a time.  “Am I angry? Absolutely. I’m furious.” In Phoenix planes now fly low over heavily populated neighbourhoods.  The Mayor said the FAA did not hold a single public hearing notifying neighbours of the change, nor did the agency ever meet with him. The Mayor commented: “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.”  A 2012 Congressional FAA authorization bill fast-tracked the roll out of NextGen by exempting it from normal environmental impact reviews and public hearings. NextGen is also causing problems for people at JFK and LaGuardia airports.

http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/2015/03/25390/

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