June 27, 2011

Two full-color brochures to assist NBAA Members with noise issues at airports have been produced by the Association, and a third, on converting a surplus military airport to civilian use, has just been released. The three brochures start a special series for use as tools by NBAA Members working with critical airport issues.

Witham Field: Rising Above the Noise (1.7MB, PDF)

At Portland’s Community Airports, Cutting Through the Noise (379KB, PDF)

Back to the Future: Brunswick Executive Is Maine’s Oldest New Airport (433KB, PDF)

A limited number of printed copies are available upon request to feedback@nbaa.org.

Neighbors Complaining About Airport Noise

The Witham and Portland pieces explain how airport managements and operators on the field successfully dealt with public perception – and public hostility – toward airport noise.

At one point, neighbors of Witham Field, in Stuart, Martin County, Florida were so angry about airport noise that they hired a nationally known law firm,” explained NBAA’s Jeff Gilley, director, airports & ground infrastructure, in describing the situation detailed in the Witham Field brochure. “Their aim was to constrain the size and scope of the airport.”

Martin County officials first commissioned a FAR Part 150 study, which produced noise contour lines that brought definition to the previously ambiguous “too noisy” complaints. With numbers in hand, the county established an Airport Noise Advisory Committee (ANAC) in 2003, with members from all sides of the controversy.

“That was one of the keys,” said NBAA Southeast Regional Representative Harry Houckes. “It’s easy to complain, but once committee members started talking seriously and looked at the hard data, they began to understand each other.” The ANAC has 13 members, drawn from the city of Stuart and another nearby community, Martin County Commissioners, residents within the 65 and 60 DNL noise contours and members representing airport operators, aircraft owners, FBOs and an aero club.

“It was a pretty difficult environment [at first],” recalled Alex Beringer, current ANAC chairman. “But as time progressed…the committee congealed and worked together.” Today, eight years later, airport operators and residents are talking and have found solutions. Houckes said, “there is a spirit of cooperation now…which is a win-win for everybody.”

Cutting Through The Noise” tells how Portland Noise Manager Jason Schwartz uses public outreach and community involvement to minimize complaints for Portland International (PDX), Hillsboro (HIO) and Troutdale (TTD), all in the Portland area. NBAA Regional Representative Kristi Ivey worked with Schwartz and operators at all three airports.

“Noise around PDX and HIO was the biggest challenge,” said Ivey. Now, noise complaints are trending down. Jason’s efforts are the key to success, especially at HIO.”

Schwartz is an expert on non-acoustic factors that cause noise complaints. “It’s not the noise itself,” said NBAA’s Ivey, “but trust in the airport, attitudes toward the noise source, predictability, avoidability and the community’s perception of cost/benefit ratio of the noise.” The Portland noise manager uses that expertise to build public outreach and community involvement, and has handed out thousands of bright blue refrigerator magnets encouraging residents to contact his department with their questions about airport noise.

“Our role is to advocate, educate and collaborate,” he said, noting that many Portland residents were completely unaware of the airports use for medical flights, law enforcement and fire fighting training. “One person even apologized for her noise complaint after….she found it was a Lifeguard flight,” said Schwartz.

Other outreach programs for the three Portland airports include a Citizen Noise Advisory Committee (CNAC) and promotion of a Fly Quiet program and a new Fly Friendly program at HIO, which includes a new run-up pad to reduce impacts on surrounding neighborhoods. There are also new GPS noise abatement procedures for the two busiest airports.

Gilley explained that many airports with noise problems are finding long-standing NBAA noise procedures effective in quieting noise footprints, and neighbor complaints. The NBAA procedures, some developed as long as 40 years ago, were originally designed as generic backup procedures for jets that had no manufacturer-specified procedures. Yet when tests of different procedures were flown at Witham Field, the long-established NBAA models came in first.

“But in today’s ATC world, procedures that are otherwise excellent aren’t practical from an air traffic standpoint,” said Gilley. He said an NBAA subcommittee of the Association’s Access Committee is tweaking those, hoping to have the latest versions ready for the NBAA 64th Annual Meeting & Convention (NBAA2011) this October in Las Vegas, NV.

GA Airport Success Story

The most recent brochure, “Brunswick Executive Is Maine’s Oldest New Airport,” turns away from noise issues to focus on a general aviation airport success story. Six years after the Federal Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission voted to shutter Brunswick Naval Air Station, the town of Brunswick, ME gained a new public-use general aviation facility thanks to countless hours of dedicated work by the community.

“Brunswick is the most recent success story for having all the right ingredients come together to turn a surplus government property into a great new general aviation airport,” said Gilley, “Strong support at the local and state level and a hard work on the part of a number of individuals in persevering through the lengthy and complicated BRAC process have paid off.”

For more NBAA airports advocacy resources, visit www.nbaa.org/airports.