Aviation noise

A victory for residents living near NYC’s LaGuardia Airport!

Photo credit: Eric Salard

If it seems like airplane noise has been in the news lately, it’s because it has.  Whether it’s East Hampton residents petitioning the Supreme Court to overturn an appeals court decision on the town’s proposed airport noise regulations, or an opinion piece debunking a study by a conservative think tank that tries to dismiss legitimate complaints about aviation noise due to the Federal Aviation Administration’s program known as NextGen, airplane noise is an issue that simply isn’t going away.  And with the money and power squarely on the side of the FAA and the airlines, it’s exciting to see residents win a round, as neighbors of LaGuardia Airport did this past week.

Donald Wood, Travel Pulse, writes that “officials from Delta Air Lines announced the carrier will no longer be flying one of its loudest aircraft at New York City’s LaGuardia Airport due to complaints from residents around the facility.”  Specifically, Delta is replacing the noisier MD-88 aircraft “with quieter, more fuel-efficient Airbus A320s, Boeing 737s and several MD-90 mainline aircraft.”  Naturally LaGuardia Airport’s neighbors are thrilled.  Wood writes that the old planes “caused some residents in the Queens borough of New York City to deal with noise so loud that it shook their homes on a near constant basis since the Federal Aviation Administration changed flight paths four years ago.”

The Times Ledger reports that U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing), former co-chair and founder of the Congressional Quiet Skies Caucus, weighed in, saying:

Delta’s move will have a positive impact on airplane noise over our borough, and it will make a difference to those who reside near the airport. I look forward to building on this switch to quieter aircraft and working with airline officials to further mitigate airplane noise.

U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) added that:

[Delta’s] move that is not just about improving the quality of the traveling experience but also about improving the quality of life for New Yorkers on the ground. While airplanes can never be truly silent, we can work to make them less disruptive to the families who live nearby and I applaud Delta for taking steps toward that goal.

Here’s hoping Delta and other airlines employ this fix at other airports around the U.S.

 

Noise, the “ignored pollutant.”

“The sonic backdrop to our lives is increasingly one of unwanted technospheric noise,” writes Paul Mobbs for the Ecologist.  Mobbs, an independent environmental researcher and author, explores the sounds of nature and the toll that noise takes “on our health, wellbeing and quality of life.”  He writes about a ritual he has engaged in from since before his teens, where a few times a year he goes for a walk “well before the dawn, in order to listen to the ‘dawn chorus.'” “Over that period,” notes Mobbs, “there’s been one inescapable change in the countryside around my home town of Banbury – noise.”

On his recent walk, Mobbs’ objective was to reach Salt Way, an old Roman salt route fringing the south-western quadrant of Banbury. “Due to its age Salt Way has exceptionally dense, wide and species-rich ancient hedgerows which demarcate it from the surrounding fields,” which Mobbs asserts is “[p]erfect for listening to birds.” Except that morning a slight breeze was wafting the sound of a large motorway that was over 2 1/2 miles away.  Reflecting on this walk, Mobbs examines lost tranquility and noise as a nuisance, and introduces us to ecopsychology as he ponders “the fundamental psychological human dependence upon the natural environment.”  It’s a fascinating piece that really should be read in its entirety.  Click the first link to do that.

 

Will the Supreme Court take on airport noise?

Photo credit: Matthew Grapengieser

East Hampton Petitions U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Airport Noise Case. Beth Young, East End Beacon, reports that East Hampton Town filed a petition for writ of certiorari asking the Supreme Court to overturn an appeals court decision on the town’s proposed airport noise regulations “that would rob East Hampton and thousands of other local airport sponsors of their ability to manage their airport, in the best interests of their residents.”  Young writes that in April 2015 the town adopted two local laws that established year-round curfews–a mandatory nightime curfew and an extended curfew on noisy aircraft–and “also enacted a third law imposing a one-trip-a-week restriction on noisy aircraft.”

The laws were challenged by “a group of aviation advocates.”  The district court upheld the two curfews but “issued a preliminary injunction against the one-trip-per week limit.”  On appeal, the Second Circuit issued a preliminary injunction blocking all three three local laws.  According to Young, “[t]he town maintains it has the right to exert local control over its airport after not taking federal funds for upkeep of the airport for several years.”  Said Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell in a press release Monday afternoon:

We followed the FAA’s advice and elected to forgo federal funding so that we could protect our residents. We engaged in a lengthy public process to identify meaningful but reasonable restrictions, and the District Court agreed that we met that test. But, with the stroke of a pen, the appeals court decision has federalized our airport and stripped us – and the thousands of similarly situated airports – of the ability to exert local control. We cannot let that decision stand.

The town filed its petition on March 6th, and the response is due on April 5th. In the event that the Supreme Court rejects the town’s petition, it will pursue other avenues for relief. Said East Hampton Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez,”[t]he town board is pursuing all avenues for redress – both in the courts and in Congress – and we will continue the fight until we regain local control of East Hampton Airport.”

Imagine flying from New York to London in only three hours–and in silence.

Like this, but quiet.
Photo credit: Dean Morley

Nope, it’s not just the stuff of dreams: NASA tests “quiet” supersonic jet. Rob Waugh, metro.uk.co, writes that NASA is paving the way to supersonic travel with “Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST),” which is designed to reach “supersonic speeds over land – without people on the ground hearing a sonic boom.”  According to Peter Iosifidis, QueSST program manager at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, the “aircraft design is shaped to separate the shocks and expansions associated with supersonic flight, dramatically reducing the aircraft’s loudness.”  He adds that the airplane’s noise signature will be “more of a ‘heartbeat’ instead of the traditional sonic boom.”

This will come as welcome relief to the many people around the U.S. (and the world) who are trying to cope with airport noise.

What’s the one thing never mentioned when discussing drone delivery?

 

Imagine 100 of these, overhead, constantly

Dyllan Furness, Digital Trends, writes about the U.S. military’s successful launch of “one of the world’s largest micro-drone swarms” in October in a piece titled, “The sound of 103 micro drones launched from an F/A-18 will give you nightmares.” Click the link to the piece and hit play on the video at the top of the page. The micro-drones can be heard starting at 2 minutes, 17 seconds.

We’re not sure if the sound will give you nightmares–although it is unnerving–but it did make us wonder about what would happen to our soundscape should Amazon and others succeed in convincing governments that drone delivery is a great idea. What you hear on the video is 103 micro-drones–small drones “with a wingspan under 12 inches.”  Now imagine a battalion of full-size, package-wielding delivery drones flying above your head. Just saying.

 

 

Noise is a public health hazard and a hazard to your most important capital asset:

Nine sources of noise that will damage your house’s value.  Emmie Martin, Business Insider, writes about a recent study by Realtor.com that “calculated the price difference between homes within a certain radius of nine major noise factors — including airports, highways, and emergency rooms — and the median price of homes in the rest of that ZIP code.”  Click the link to see how noise effects house prices.  There isn’t much prose, but the slider makes it clear that noise matters when you are buying or selling your home.

 

Always read the fine print when a study comes out trivializing noise complaints

Daniel Fink, MD, and Jamie L. Banks, PhD, MSc, have written an intriguing article about NextGen, The Mercatus Center (funded by the arch conservative Koch brothers), and aircraft noise. In “Airplane Noise is a Health Hazard,” Fink and Banks write that the Mercatus Center study “labels those who complain about airport noise as NIMBYs…conveniently ignor[ing] a large body of medical research showing that airplane noise increases the risk of morbidity and mortality, [and] trivializ[ing] the seriousness of a problem affecting the health and well-being of millions of Americans.”  It’s a very thoughtful and well-cited piece that is worth a careful read.

Shortly after Fink and Banks’ article was published, an article appeared in the Chicago Sun Times about the soaring costs in test program to insulate historic homes near O’Hare ($101,000 per home, not an insignificant amount). Interestingly, the Mercatus Center study somehow ignored the damage to property value borne by homeowners living under NextGen flight paths while it was categorizing people suffering from continuous aircraft noise as a “handful” of NIMBYists .

Noise: the forgotten pollutant

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

, The Irish Times, writes about environmental noise, which he terms “the forgotten pollutant.” Why forgotten? Because Purcell believes that people living in urban areas have grown accustomed to ignoring noise.  But that may be coming to an end, Purcell opines, because due to “the constant and rapid development of globalised economies and cities, the world is getting noisier.”

Purcell examines the known negative health effects of noise and looks at the work done by acoustic scientists and engineers, who “generate sophisticated noise maps, which graphically represent urban areas based on how loud or quiet they are.”  He interviews Dr. Eoin King, an assistant professor at the University of Hartford, who states that “noise mapping is the first step in the environmental noise management process.”

Why is noise mapping is important?  Dr. King says that it “enables policymakers to determine the overall extent of noise pollution, so that appropriate decisions can be made.”  But making a noise map is both time-consuming and expensive, or at least it used to be time-consuming and expensive. One exciting development led by Dr. Enda Murphy, associate professor at University College Dublin, and Dr. King, is the use of simple smartphone apps to create the maps inexpensively. Eventually, says King, “smartphone apps that can measure noise accurately…might present the possibility of live noise mapping in the future.”  And with live noise mapping comes “new noise data [with] a range of applications, from predicting health problems, to the market pricing of real estate.”

Click the link to read the full article.  It’s a very interesting read.

 

Did you know that older aircraft could be retrofitted to reduce noise while landing?

airplane

Yes they can, and members of Massachusetts’ Congressional delegation are asking JetBlue to retrofit older aircraft with noise-reducing equipment to make their descent into Logan International Airport less disruptive.

The bigger problem is the “new navigation system deployed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that concentrates more planes into narrower flight paths.”  As a result, complaints have spiked at communities surrounding airports all across the country.  So while retrofitting may bring some relief to beleaguered Bostonians, ultimately the FAA’s NextGen program needs a major overhaul, and one that includes participation by citizens adversely impacted by the program.  Fortunately, things seem to be moving in that direction as “the FAA and the Massachusetts Port Authority — which operates Logan — said they were creating a task force to investigate flight patterns and noise problems.”

 

Disappointing news in the war on aviation noise:

airplanes-at-night

East Hampton Airport Noise Restrictions Blocked.  The East Hampton Star reports that a federal appeals court barred East Hampton Town from enforcing three 2015 laws aimed at addressing excessive aircraft noise at East Hampton Airport.  The court found that the town failed to comply with procedural requirements of the Airport Noise and Capacity Act when it enacted the noise laws.  The town’s attorney stated that, “[a]lthough today’s court decision places the solution to the aviation noise problem firmly at the feet of Congress and the F.A.A., the town will continue to explore every available option so that the residents of the East End won’t continue to be inflicted by an unrelenting din from the skies above.”