Airport Noise: Fifteen
Ways to Quiet the Skies
- Increase local control of
airports. Demand that two-thirds of airport commission members live
within the high impact area where average day/night levels exceed 65 dBA
(what the FAA calls moderate noise exposure). Also, increase local control
with regard to expansion, number and time of takeoffs, landings, ground
- Remove FAA from oversight of
environmental quality and public health.This would remove a significant
conflict of interest for the FAA which has too often seen its role as
promoting air transportation. Noise and other environmental pollutants need
to be regulated by some combination of EPA and local oversight.
- Abandon the day/night sound
pressure level of 65 dBA that the FAA uses to separate “low” noise
exposure from “moderate” noise exposure. The 65 dBA value is too
noisy and unhealthy. Use 55 dBA as an interim value until a descriptor that
includes low frequency noise, and better reflects the impacts of aircraft
noise such as sleep disturbance, interference with learning, and other noise
- Develop a high-speed rail
alternatives to aircraft flights of less than 500 miles. Redirect
government investment from airport expansion to high-speed rail. Also,
support efforts to quiet rail transit.
- Protect the public from
environmental and health hazards at and near airports. These include the
release of significant amounts of toxins, known carcinogens and de-icing
fluids. Existing Clean Air and Clean Water regulations need to be enforced
and new regulations addressing the public health and environmental impacts
of airports and airplane travel need to be adopted.
- Support a Global Nighttime
Curfew. Around the world, hundreds of airports already have curfews.
Local nighttime curfews, while a positive step, shift the problem elsewhere.
A nationwide and global effort is needed.
- Demand that airports and
airlines pay the full cost of airline travel. Remove all FAA subsidies;
increase landing fees to cover lost property value, insulation programs,
health effects, and annoyance; increase fuel taxes to account for
environmental and public health damage; and remove local subsidies.
- Expand soundproofing programs to
all homes, churches, schools, hospitals, and commercial businesses
experiencing a day/night average of greater than 55 dBA from airports.
Eventually, all sensitive properties--homes, churches, schools, day care,
hospitals, etc.--should be protected against indoor single event readings
exceeding 45 dBA with windows open. Insulation and soundproofing alone,
however, is not the solution because it neglects outdoor noise. Insulation
does not provide for the full enjoyment of common and private property.
However, at least it protects people inside their homes.
- Demand objective health studies
of noise and other pollutants near airports.
- Support quieter and cleaner
aircraft technology (called Stage IV). Stage IV technology may be years
away, and in the future, aircraft may achieve smaller reductions in
pollution, both in terms of air and noise pollution. Therefore, Stage IV
technology should not be relied upon as the main solution to aircraft
pollution. Nevertheless, technological improvements should be aggressively
- Ban flights over and within 2
miles of non-urban National Parks, Wilderness areas, National Monuments,
National Seashores, and other sensitive and pristine public lands (except
for emergency, research, construction and maintenance activities).
- Increase the minimum altitude
for general aviation craft and helicopters to 2,000 feet above ground
level and implement an effective policing mechanism. Impose a minimum flight
altitude for 2,500 feet above ground level for all tour operations and
commercial transport services (for example, air taxis).
- Ban commercial and corporate SST
flights from United States Airports and airspace.
- Avoid solutions that shift noise
to others. The FAA likes to pit one community against another because it
divides opposition to its policies. A fairer distribution of noise might
make sense for many airports, but moving the noise around doesn’t solve
the problem and divides people who should be united against airport noise.
The problem of airport noise will not be solved one airport at a time.
Persons with airport noise problems must unite. Significant changes in the
FAA will likely occur only when airport groups can show significant power
and support to Washington.
- Foster connections with and
support other noise pollution organizations. A victory for any group
fighting noise is a victory for all. This is the only way to create a broad
enough coalition to actually reduce noise pollution.