Tracking those noisy airplanes flying over your house

Photo credit: Edith Peeps

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

As The Quiet Coalition has reported, people living all over the country have complained about airplane noise in the last few years. This is a result of flight path changes promoted by the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) NextGen program, which guides airplanes on more direct flight paths, saving time and fuel and making flying safer. Unfortunately, the FAA forgot to consider what happens to the people living below these newly concentrated flight paths, who are subjected to a barrage of aircraft noise.

The screenshot above shows the concentration of aircraft over the Los Angeles, California area.  Not surprisingly, newspaper and television reports have documented these problems in Washington, DC, Baltimore, Boston, Phoenix, San Francisco, and several cities near Los Angeles, and Orange County, California. I’ll stop there, but there are many more complaints in and around the 86 major airports in the U.S. In fact, the FAA just reported that it has received over 40,000 complaints of airplane noise from residents living near Washington DC airports.

In dealing with government agencies and elected officials, I have found that the best way to get someone to act is to document a problem as completely and as often as possible. For aircraft, that means reporting the date and time of the overflight, and ideally identifying the airline and flight number of the plane. I didn’t know that was possible until I was walking with a friend who pulled out her cell phone as an airplane flew far overhead, pointed it at the plane and said, “that’s the Qantas flight from Sydney.”

Photo credit: Edith Peeps

She showed me the Flightradar24 app that she had downloaded to her phone (a screenshot appears above). It identifies planes flying overhead, including the carrier, flight number, and type of airplane. There are several different levels of technology that can be purchased, obviously with more features costing more, but the basic app is free. There also are other flight tracker apps, but Flightradar24 appears to be best for this purpose.

If airplane noise is a problem in your neighborhood, get the app, start collecting data, and report it to your local council representative, congressional representative, local Quiet Skies organization, the FAA (contact them online here), and your local airport. Include the date and time, airplane identification data, and a decibel reading, if possible, using a sound meter app. At busier airports, flights depart every few minutes from early morning until almost midnight. Enlist a group of neighbors to take designated time slots to document the aircraft noise problem, or make documenting the problem a school science project. It’s hard to argue with the data.

Aircraft noise is a major health hazard, causing hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hospitalization, and death. Fighting aircraft noise will require accurate data, and Flightradar24 may be the way to get it.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He serves on the board of the American Tinnitus Association, is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’s Health Advisory Council, and is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *