Thank you to all who are reporting intrusive flights!
We hope all are having a safe and good summer! Now, with post-pandemic life returning, we can use what we learned during shutdowns to press on the importance of reducing noise. People and nature around the world overwhelmingly responded positively to quieter and cleaner surroundings, and the reduction in pollution was a “silver lining” that is motivating some policy makers to manage transportation noise and air quality impacts more proactively.
FAA Ombudsman Response:
On June 15th we received a reply from the FAA Ombudsman to our letter concerned with how the FAA handles environmental airspace changes. Please see our comments and new questions for the FAA here, including that we are asking for an additional workshop to address the items in our letter to press for an expanded FAA toolbox to address noise.
FAA’s underlying assumption in proceeding with a CATEX instead of a higher level environmental review is based on their use of a “noise screening” calculation; this calculation is, as best we can determine, a comparison of one flight--following a published airspace procedure (of one type of airplane)--with another, similar airplane, following a new or replacement airspace procedure. In our view this is equivalent to comparing two glasses of water to evaluate a toxic reservoir. This reliance on inadequate evaluations hinders a shared understanding of the issues among all stakeholders and is problematic for current and long-term public discussions about aircraft noise.
FAA's use of "noise screening" coupled with permissive noise thresholds - instead of comprehensive noise assessments that would determine with certainty if perceptible noise levels have increased - also allows manipulation of federal priorities and allocation of resources. A cursory screen serves operator private interests and when a CATEX is issued the FAA does not have to notify citizens. The FAA has for 50 years imposed significant hurdles for communities to address aircraft noise but modern federally-funded airspace design tools that could help add options to the mitigation menu are used exclusively for industry goals without meaningfully considering noise and the environment.
The influential FAA NextGen Advisory Committee whose objective is “to provide independent advice and recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)” doesn’t know or understand noise from our point of view, so it is important that the FAA, as a regulator, is informed about and accurately represents the noise concerns of citizens. While some progress is being made in bringing operators to community discussions, it will not help to engage if we are not first on the same page about the proportions of pollutants that need to be managed, and how peoples’ health, productivity and well being are affected.
IN THE NEWS!
On June 3, the Palo Alto Weekly reported on developments regarding the SFO Roundtable, see City finds allies in battle against airplane noise. We want to thank the group of Palo Alto residents who have led and persevered in building the case of why Palo Alto should be a member of the SFO RT: Marie-Jo Fremont - firstname.lastname@example.org, Mark Shull - email@example.com, and Darlene Yaplee - firstname.lastname@example.org among others. The discussion is moving in the right direction and there are still hurdles to overcome. There will be further discussions at the SFO RT.