Friday, March 2, 2007
Airport officials sound off on noise
Only federal law can regulate operating hours, flight paths, aircraft types to reduce effects
By LARRY PARSONS
The Monterey (CA) County Herald
Monterey city and airport leaders Thursday wrestled with the perennial problem of noise generated by airport operations. Monterey Peninsula Airport District officials told city officials and members of the public that their hands are tied by federal law when it comes to regulating operating hours, flight paths and types of aircraft to reduce noise impacts. “Airports can’t pass their own laws and restrict access,” said airport General Manager Tom Greer.
He said the Monterey airport district passed noise-abatement ordinances to restrict flight paths and touch-and-go landings in the late 1980s. The ordinances were immediately preempted by federal law.
“To impose a curfew, you have to have a really egregious noise situation,” said David Willoughby, airport district counsel. Only one U.S. airport, in Naples, Fla., has been able to do that, he said.
Greer said most pilots who use the Monterey airport use voluntary guidelines to keep noise in nearby neighborhoods to a minimum. Only 2 percent of flights take place between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. — a period the airport district calls a “voluntary curfew.”
But Richard Ruccello, president of the Casanova Oak Knoll Neighborhood Association, said he has attended hours and hours of meetings during the past 20 years about airport-noise issues that never get resolved.
“When you have a continual problem, you have to change your way of thinking,” he said.
Ruccello said airport neighbors must put up with safety and traffic issues as well as noise. He urged officials to press for flight patterns to steer aircraft away from heavily populated areas.
Monterey City Councilman Jeff Haferman said airport noise is a recurring issue that he hears raised at neighborhood meetings.
“I’m hearing a lot of concerns,” he said.
The meeting brought together two Monterey City Council members, two airport district directors, and staff members from both agencies. They try to meet every few months to discuss overlapping issues, but Thursday’s meeting was the first joint session since last summer.
Airport Director Robert DeVoe said his agency “wants to be a good neighbor, and we’re trying everything we can.”
A just-started study that will update a noise-contour map for the airport could show that overall noise levels have slackened. Greer said newer commercial planes must meet tighter noise standards, and airports are pressing the federal government for similar rules for private aircraft.
The noise study should be finished by mid-summer. The Federal Aviation Administration requires airports to update their noise maps periodically, but the last map for the Monterey airport was done in 1997.
“We’ll be in a much better position after the study is complete,” said airport Director Carl Miller.
If you go . What:The Monterey Peninsula Airport District is holding three public workshops about a new airport noise study. . When:The first workshop is scheduled 5:30 to 7 p.m. March 13 . Where:The district board room in the airport terminal.