The Noise Pollution Clearinghouse Comments to the FAA
Aviation Noise Abatement Policy 2000

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed Aviation Noise Abatement Policy 2000. The remarks that follow constitute the comment of the Noise Pollution Clearinghouse (NPC) on the proposed Policy. I am the Executive Director of NPC. I have an educational background in math, physics, and environmental policy, and am a member of the Acoustical Society of America.

The Noise Pollution Clearinghouse assists people with noise problems, primarily by providing information about how best to solve the problem. Approximately 200,000 people used our resources last year. Aircraft noise is their greatest single concern. And the growth of aviation noise is their most often cited complaint. In most cases, they are reporting an aviation noise problem that did not exist 25 years ago. Their experience is an indictment of previous aviation noise abatement policies. The consensus is that FAA policies to abate noise have failed.

Moreover, the proposed Aviation Noise Abatement Policy 2000 is totally inadequate as a noise abatement policy and requires massive revision. The Policy is incapable of reducing the impact of aviation noise on citizens and the deficiencies of the document cannot be addressed without a total reexamination and rewriting of the Policy . At the heart of the inadequacy is a total lack of understanding of aircraft noise and its effects.

The comments below are organized in the following manner: first the commentator notes the key deficiencies of the Noise Abatement Policy that show a serious lack of understanding of aviation noise and its effects; second, the commentator undertakes a section by section analysis of the policy; finally, the commentator concludes that the Draft Policy is totally inadequate and needs to be rewritten, addressing 23 key points covered by this commentator.

Part I: Key Deficiencies of the Policy

The Policy needs to clearly state the scope of the aviation noise problem and redefine significant impact. The current method of determining significant impact vastly understates the aviation noise problem in this country. By understating the problem the FAA has understated the need for noise abatement. As a result, the Policy is seriously deficient.

Key aspects of the aviation noise problem not adequately addressed in the Policy are:

1. Aviation noise is a growing problem and not a declining one.

The proposed Policy states that only 500,000 people are currently significantly impacted by aviation noise, down from 6-7 million. This would seem to indicate that noise is 1/14th the problem it used to be. In truth, more people than ever are significantly impacted by aviation noise. Millions of people near small but quickly growing airports are experiencing aviation noise problems for the first time. And the growth in night time flights (air cargo increased more than 22 times between 1960 and 1995, DOT, National Transportation Statistics 1997) means that more and more people are awakened at night. These impacts are not reflected in the 65 DNL criteria that the FAA uses to determine significant impact.

2. Night flights that wake family members impose a significant impact on citizens.

The FAA has, in its Proposed Noise Abatement Policy, ignored sleep disturbance as a significant impact. Sleep disturbance is mentioned only four times in the approximately 25,000 word document. It is, however, perhaps the most extreme and disturbing noise impact. And it is the fastest growing impact, paralleling the growth of night time flights.

Sleep loss results in decreased workplace productivity, contributes to thousands of automobile accidents each year, leads to irritability and strained relations with family and friends, and lowers student performance in schools. One awakening a night by aircraft must be considered a significant noise impact.

3. Single event levels greater than 45 dBA indoors significantly impact education in schools, religious services in churches, family life in homes, and worker productivity in offices.

The following are typical recommended background noise levels for various facilities (also known as Room Criteria, RC):

Private residences: 25-30 dB
Courtrooms 25-30 dB
Churches 25-30 dB
Classrooms 25-30 dB

Single event levels of 45 dB are between 2 and 4 times louder than typical recommendations. Intrusions greater than 45 dBA represent a significant impact.

4. Natural Quiet in National Parks and wilderness areas is threatened by all aircraft within 10 miles of the park.

Any intrusion of aircraft noise on a pristine wilderness areas is a significant noise impact. There is no such thing as an acceptable degradation of wilderness. Wilderness is by definition an area unspoiled, unchanged, and unaffected by humans.

5. Historic and culturally sensitive lands are being significantly degraded by aircraft noise.

Aircraft noise significantly impacts many historic and culturally sensitive sites. These include cemeteries, historic districts, historic battlefields, and monuments. Aircraft noise degrades and detracts from important national and cultural symbols.

By not recognizing the five impacts of aviation noise listed above as significant, the FAA has avoided having to abate aircraft noise in these situation. Moreover, by failing to address these impacts, the FAA has avoided having to state truly ridiculous positions. For example, "waking people up several times a night is not a significant impact."

Part II: Section by Section Analysis of the Aviation Noise Abatement Policy

While understating the significant impacts of aviation noise is the most fundamental error in the Policy, there are many others in the document, some of which follow from this initial mistake. They are noted below by Section.


This section should reflect the failure of the existing Policy to reduce the impact of aviation noise (as discussed above), focusing on the following:


The goals mentioned in the Policy are inadequate to reduce the impact of aviation noise on citizens. This is in part due to the lack of understanding of the noise problem (as discussed above) and in part due to the lack of an overarching goal for the Aviation Noise Abatement Policy. The overarching goal of a noise abatement policy should be to "abate the noise from aviation sources" (see below). At its strongest, "abate" means "to demolish." Weaker interpretations would require a reduction in frequency and intensity of aviation noise. The proposed policy achieves neither the strong nor weak interpretation of abate.

Goals that Should Be in the Policy

The entire document needs to be guided by a vision or overarching goal: The overaching goal of the Aviation Noise Abatement Policy 2000 is to reduce the frequency and intensity of aviation noise in order to create more livable cities and more natural rural and wilderness areas.

There are at least six specific goals that should have been included in the Noise Abatement Policy that were not. These include:

1. Increased local control of airport noise and expansion.

The FAA's reliance on quiet technology has failed. Sleep interference is a growing problem, classrooms are increasingly impacted by aviation noise, millions of people who were not bothered by aviation noise in 1976 now are. The reason for the failure of previous FAA policies is that there was no procedure to insure that the Noise Abatement Policy was effective.

The result is an unjust situation in which citizens pay a social cost in terms of lost quality of life, lost property values, and lost productivity while the airline industry profits at their expense.

The social philosopher John Rawl has developed a procedure that would ensure fairness in this situation. The goal of any such procedure should be, according to Rawls, to ensure that the decision makers are making decisions that they themselves would be willing to live with. With respect to aviation noise, the most logical solution is to require those who profit from aviation and those that make or enforce aviation policy to live within the significantly impacted area--the 65 DNL contour as defined by the FAA. Just as many cities require that their municipal employees live within city limits (for example, the city of Boston, MA), FAA employees, airport commissioners, and other government airport policy makers should live within the 65 DNL contour.

This requirement to live within the impacted area would ensure that decision makers take into account the impacts on the neighbors of airports and would encourage policies that actually abate aviation noise. Unwillingness on the part of government officials to live within the 65 DNL contour shows an unwillingness to live with the effects of their noise abatement policy decisions. This is a very effective and efficient measure, already used with many types of government employees, that would quickly and effectively lead to the abatement of aviation noise.

If the FAA was to adopt only one measure to abate noise, the requirement of its employees and airport policy makers to live within the 65 DNL contour would be the most effective noise abatement measure. This is because aviation noise currently, at its most fundamental level, is not a technological problem or a land use problem, but a problem of injustice and unfairness. Decision makers would not choose to live with the consequences of their decisions. If they had to, they would choose very differently.

2. Decrease the instances of noise interference that communities experience.

In spite of advances in quiet technology aviation, noise is a growing problem, primarily because the advances in technology cannot keep pace with the increased number of flights. The most promising method to abate aviation noise is to promote cleaner and quieter alternatives to aviation travel. Just as federal highway funds are used for transportation demand management, so should the aviation funds be utilized. Eliminating the need for air travel is the best method of noise abatement, should be the preferred method of noise abatement, and must be part of a comprehensive noise abatement policy. Moreover, alternatives have significantly less total costs when social costs are also included.

Funding cleaner, healthier and socially less costly alternatives to air travel such as rail and telecommunications should be the first priority of policies under the goal of decreasing instances of noise interference.

Both rail and telecommunications are cleaner, healthier, and socially less expensive alternatives to air travel. However, both also suffer from market constraints that currently limit their attractiveness as an alternative. U.S. passenger rail currently suffers from an aging infrastructure and declining public investment while videoconferencing is an emerging transportation alternative that receives almost no funding. The following policies would make rail and telecommunications more attractive options to air transit and should be advocated by the Policy:

  1. Institute a less than 500 miles airfare tax that is large enough to make rail fares competitive to air.
  2. Reduce by 75% the landings, takeoffs, and slots given to flights of less than 500 miles over the next 10 years, focusing first on airports considering expansion. Create a market trading mechanism where airlines bid for takeoffs and landings.
  3. Limit short trips of 250 miles or less.
  4. Fund high speed Maglev rail infrastructure capable of speeds of between 240 and 300 mph. The cost of such infrastructure is between $2 million and $50 million dollars per mile, depending on the right of way. A high speed rail system would require investments on the scale of airport investments in the past 20 years.
  5. Fund for Amtrak.
  6. Build videoconferencing centers instead of airport expansion, especially in small and rural communities.
  7. Fund broadband video conferencing infrastructure.

3. Eliminate Night time sleep interference.

One of the most serious problems with the Draft Noise Abatement Policy is that sleep disturbance is almost totally neglected. This is perhaps the most glaring omission from the Noise Abatement Policy document. Sleep disturbance is mentioned only four times in the approximately 25,000 word document, and then, only in a tangential manner. Yet it is one of the most devastating aviation noise impacts.

Nighttime flights repeatedly wake neighbors. Repeatedly waking people up at night in their own homes is one of the most uncivil things people can do to each other. Moreover, sleep loss and its resulting health effects cause billions of dollars in lost productivity, thousands of car and workplace accidents, and strained family and friend relations.

Noise induced sleep loss is caused by noise spikes of 8-10 dBA above background levels (Griefahn, B., 1990, Research on Noise and Sleep: Present State, Noise as a Public Health Problem, Vol. 5, Swedish Council for Building Research, Stockholm). It is not uncommon for airplanes to cause sleep interference, when single event aircraft noise exceeds 55 decibels outside. Sleep interference without awakenings, which can reduce the quality of sleep by shifting sleepers out of deeper levels of sleep, can occur at lower levels.

Communities typically adopt noise ordinances to protect against nighttime sleep interference. That is why they often choose 50 dBA as the nighttime maximum. The same limit should apply to aircraft. For most airports, this would be equivalent to a curfew. Currently, curfews are used to achieve nighttime peace and quiet at many airports around the world.

The primary user of nighttime flights is the air cargo industry. A nighttime curfew policy would by no means end the overnight delivery industry. The likely result of a curfew would be that for early morning deliveries, packages would have to be mailed earlier the day before (so that they could be shipped by a plane that lands before 10 PM). Similarly, if the package is mailed late in the afternoon (so that it is unable to meet the 10 PM curfew), it would be delivered later on the following day. Most importantly, the entire industry would have to play by the same rules, so that there would be no competitive advantage given to any carrier.

The other major night time concern is redeye flights. While people have the right to not sleep at night by their own choosing, no one should have the right to inflict redeye on persons living around airports. Nighttime flights are incompatible with an acceptable quality of life and should be banned between 10 PM and 7 AM. Only emergency, delayed, and diverted flights should be permitted at airports during these hours.

4. Reduce aviation noise by moving aircraft farther away from people and sensitive lands.

The greater the distance between source and receiver, the less the noise. The FAA has undertaken minimal efforts to move receivers from very high impact areas, but the Policy has totally ignored the method of moving aircraft away from sensitive areas. Moreover, the FAA's over-reliance on land use planning has shifted the burden of abating noise to the communities. The FAA should actively abate noise themselves be moving aircraft, which they control, away from sensitive areas.

As a general rule, noise decreases by 6 decibels for each doubling of the distance between source and receiver (although atmospheric conditions can significantly affect noise propagation). Therefore, aircraft that are nearer the ground are significantly louder than those at higher altitudes. For example, a craft at 3,000 feet is about half as loud as the same craft at 1,000 feet.

The FAA should adopt a 3,000-foot minimum altitude rule for ALL aircraft not taking off or landing (3,000 feet above the highest elevation within 5 miles of the

craft). This would reduce noise from helicopters, small aircraft, and air tourism. The rule requires strict enforcement including monitoring by pilots and regulators of on-board global positioning equipment, so that can altitude and location of all craft can be determined and automatic violations of the minimum height rule or specific flight paths can be issued. (See Revisions of proposed Policy Element 1.)

Moreover, the Policy should require pilots to fly at higher cruising altitudes. Congestion should not be allowed to shift aircraft closer to the ground. More careful regulation of airspace is needed to ensure that aircraft remain as high as possible.

In addition, by 2010, all aircraft and pilots should be required to fly by instruments, eliminating the need for Visual Flight Rules and the need to fly below a lower cloud ceiling. This is an important safety advancement and will allow aircraft to maintain adequate height to abate noise.

Finally, a 10 mile buffer around national parks and sensitive wild lands is also needed (see comments on proposed Goal 5 below), as well as restrictions around culturally or historically sensitive lands

5. Compensate neighbors impacted by aviation noise for the lost quality of life, lost property values, and lost productivity.

This measure will not directly abate the noise but will mitigate the impact. Each year compensation should be given to homeowners and renters at a minimum rate of 4% per decibel increase due to aviation noise (E. I. Feitelson et al, 1996, Transportation Research, The Impact of Airport Noise on Willingness to Pay for Residences) to compensate for lost value and lost quality of life.

6. Support environmental justice by ensuring that low income families and minorities do not experience a disproportionate amount of aviation noise and its impacts.

Environmental justice is a major issue around airports, where minorities and low income families suffer disproportionately from aviation noise. The environmental issues around Boston's Logan airport are mirrored at most major airports nationwide and need to be addressed. The Noise Abatement Policy never once mentions the need to abate noise over low income and minority neighborhoods.

Achieving environmental justice requires the fair treatment of people of all races, cultures and incomes with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of aviation and environmental laws, regulations, programs, and policies. Fair treatment means that no racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic group should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences (including noise, air, and water pollution) resulting from the operation of airports, airlines, and airplanes and from the execution of federal, state, or local programs and policies. The Aviation Noise Abatement Policy must actively seek ways to abate noise for minorities and low income families.

Existing Goals as they Should Be Modified

The goals that were included in the proposed Noise Abatement Policy require significant modification to effectively abate aviation noise. The six goals need to be modified as follows to effectively abate aviation noise:

1. Reduce aircraft noise at its source, including noise from helicopters and craft weighing less than 75,000 pounds, eliminate the use of hushkits, and eliminate sonic booms over land.

The proposed policy relies on voluntary agreements by aircraft owners to buy quieter aircraft less than 75,000 pounds. Just as with aircraft greater than 75,000 pounds, regulations are needed, not just recommendations. New aircraft weighing less than 75,000 pounds should be required to be at least 10 dB quieter than existing noise levels.

49 U.S.C. 44715 directs the FAA to prescribe and amend aircraft noise standards regardless of weight. Smaller aircraft are especially problematic at smaller airports. Noisy smaller craft need to be phased out and newer quieter craft required. (See revised Policy 1 below for a discussion of hushkits and sonic booms.)

2. Use new technologies to limit noise exposure and enforce more stringent regulations such as minimum height above ground rules and position of aircraft with respect to sensitive lands and areas.

GPS, telecommunications, and computer technology will allow regulators to determine the exact location and height of all aircraft. With this technology, pilots can easily know if they are flying where they should be, and regulators can easily enforce regulations aimed at moving aircraft noise away from sensitive areas (such as minimum height rules and distance from parks, wildlands, and culturally or historically sensitive areas--these are described throughout this document).

3. Bring existing land uses into compatibility with levels of significant noise exposure around airports by purchasing nearby land and buildings, and donate the development rights to a "noise trust." Land purchased for noise abatement should never be used for runway or airport expansion!

The airline industry should bear all costs related to ensuring compatible land uses. The best tool to distance receivers from aviation noise sources is to purchase the land and donate it to a "noise trust." The land must be turned over to a third party that will hold development rights in perpetuity or until the airport is no longer used. This is imperative since it is morally and legally important that noise abatement money never be used for airport expansion (which has lead to the growth in the aviation noise problem).

4. Design prospective air traffic routes to protect residential areas against new aircraft noise.

Most of the increase in aviation noise results from exposing people who were previously unaffected by aviation noise to new flights. In order for land use planning to be an effective tool, communities must know with certainty that the flight paths will not affect previously unaffected neighborhoods and that existing traffic will not grow. For the last 25 year, the FAA has undermined land use planning as a tool of noise abatement by financing airport expansion and new or longer runways.

5. Protect national parks, wilderness areas, national monuments, national seashores, wildlife refuges, and other pristine, culturally, or historically sensitive lands from aviation noise.

The proposed goal provides for only "consideration" of federally managed unique noise sensitive areas. "Consideration" is insufficient to protect natural quiet and the values and resources of national parks. Also, there are many federal, state, and privately owned lands that deserve protection. Specific policies under this goal should be:

6. Ensure financial support for noise insulation of homes, churches, workplaces, and schools to a 45 dBA single event maximum.

The funding for insulation should come from the airline industry and users of the aviation system. The polluter should pay to insulate homes, churches, schools, and businesses against aviation noise.

Aviation Noise Policies that Should Be in the Policy

The proposed aviation noise policies are inadequate to meet the proposed and existing goals. Policies that should be added to the proposed list include the following:

1. The FAA will require FAA and airport commission members to live within the 65 DNL contour of an airport. (See Goal 1 above for a discussion of the rationale.)

2. The FAA will aggressively pursue a transportation demand management strategy to shift users to cleaner and quieter alternatives to air travel such as telecommunications and rail. (See Goal 2 above for a discussion of the rationale.)

3. The FAA will require airports that disturb neighbors sleep to close between 10 PM and 7 AM.

4. The FAA will require a 3,000 foot minimum height requirement and a 10 mile buffer around non-urban national parks and other sensitive wild lands.

5. The FAA will compensate persons adversely affected by aviation noise. (See Goal 4 above for a discussion of the rationale.)

6. The FAA will create and enforce an environmental justice policy which ensures that minorities or low income communities suffer no more noise than wealthier communities. (See Goal 5 above for a discussion of the rationale.)

Existing Aviation Noise Abatement Policies as They Should Be Revised

The proposed policies should be modified as follows to effectively abate aviation noise.

1. The FAA will aggressively pursue the development and prescription of a new generation of more stringent noise standards and regulations in order to protect public health and welfare, including standards for helicopters, ultra lights, and all aircraft less than 75,000 pounds. FAA acknowledges that there is no technology that will reduce sonic booms to acceptable levels and will not permit them to occur over land, and that hushkits are insufficient to abate noise and therefore aircraft equipped with hushkits must be eliminated.

Small aircraft have already been discussed above. The FAA's Noise Abatement Policy totally ignores sonic booms. Any noise abatement policy that hopes to prevent an increase of noise in the future must regulate supersonic aircraft, and not just their engines. The policy calls for engine standards for supersonic aircraft similar to those of subsonic aircraft. Sonic booms are incompatible with residential and recreational uses of land. Therefore, sonic booms should not occur over or within 50 miles of land. Moreover, the US government, NASA, and the FAA should immediately stop all spending to develop supersonic jet engines. This investment is an investment in a noisier world. The FAA Noise Abatement Policy should seek to end such funding.

2. The FAA will use new technologies to ensure that pilots fly in ways that minimize the impact on citizens and wild lands. Free flight is incompatible with systematic noise abatement.

The proposed policy advocates free flight. Free flight has no place in a noise abatement policy. Free flight ensures that flight path decisions will be made based on paths most profitable to the airline industry. Encouraging airline profits has nothing to do with noise abatement. Free flight will undermine efforts to protect sensitive lands and minority and low income communities, as well as undermine efforts to systematically reduce noise exposure.

Free flight fails to consider that pilots and airlines will select the cheapest route, imposing social costs on whoever is under that route. A noise abatement policy must ensure that routes are chosen to minimize the noise impact to communities. Free flight opens the door to continuous overflights of some areas and people.

New technology, however, should be used to enforce regulations aimed at keeping planes further away from citizens. Radar, GPS, and telecommunication technology can allow automatic violations to be issued to pilots who stray from noise abatement procedures such as minimum height requirements or mandatory flight paths.

In addition, on board technology that allows craft to fly and land in poor visibility and poor weather should be required on all aircraft by 2010.

3. The FAA will minimize noise impacts for residents of communities surrounding airports and for noise sensitive areas.

The above statement should be the focus of any noise abatement policy. The FAA's proposed policy is overly bureaucratic and vacuous, full of empty language relying on "reviews" and "consideration" to reduce noise.

The heart of the problem is that the FAA has a significant conflict of interest. Many airport related noise problems are due to the conflicting mission of the FAA as regulator and promoter of aviation, from which it has been unable to distance itself. The FAA makes no secret of its role as aviation cheerleader. A recent FAA publication, FAA Aviation Forecasts, Fiscal Years 1996-2007 begins its executive summary with the headline, “Two Years of Traffic Growth and Profits Too!”

The roles of cheerleader for the aviation industry, financier of aviation expansion, and regulator of safety and health conflict. They are also seriously out of balance as demonstrated by the FAA's Noise Abatement Policy. The FAA should be downsized, with its focus on safety, crash prevention, and crash investigation. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should oversee environmental regulation, and local governments should oversee airport expansion.

The logical solution to the conflicts of interest is to divide the FAA’s roles between more appropriate entities. The FAA should remain the regulator of passenger and aircraft safety. The EPA should be the regulator of environmental quality and aviation’s damaging health impacts. The multi-billion dollar airline industry should be the cheerleader of aviation. And local communities should control development at local airports.

The issue of noise impacting a community is not an aviation safety issue, it’s a public health and welfare issue. The FAA is responsible for aviation safety not public health and welfare, which is left up to EPA. In 1979, EPA was asked to provide guidance on this issue. However, the FAA rejected the EPA’s recommendation of DLN 55 dB. If the FAA wanted reduce the noise impacting and effecting the communities, it should have adopted EPA’s original recommendation, DNL 55 dB. Due to the growth in the number of flights and the lack of a metric that accounts for low frequency noise, even the 55 DNL is now inadequate.

The FAA's conflict of interest manifests itself in a host of other policies and decisions that harm the cause of noise abatement. For example, the FAA categorically excludes operations over 3,000 feet from FAA environmental assessment. The FAA also recommends a very week 2,000 foot minimum height requirement on noise sensitive areas, and leaves helicopters and other small craft virtually unregulated with respect to height.

In addition, while proprietors have liability and the ability to limit that liability by taking reasonable action, most are reluctant to do so if the DNL 65 dB criterion is not met. Thus, even if the public demands changes, the proprietor will respond that unless the DNL 65dB level is reached there is nothing that can be done.

The same is true for areas outside the airport environment. Since any action is dependant upon the numerical trigger being reached, reasonable abatement measures are not taken. The Nantucket airport, for example, implemented an over-water route that is voluntary. If this route is used (it is often ignored), the citizens of an area who were not previously exposed to aviation noise, not only hear the aircraft, but now hear it with excessive frequency. The noise, however, does not trigger a very sensible mitigation measure, to require the planes to fly a couple miles further out to sea so that no one on land can hear them.

In noise sensitive areas, like near schools, hospitals, and churches, the number of flights, not the decibel level is the most important factor to be considered. As an example, if a plane flies over a school, the class is disrupted for 30 seconds. Then it takes another minute to restore the train of thought in the student’s mind after the plane has past. If this happens 5 times an hour, the teachers are losing nearly 8 minutes of teaching time (approximately 16% of the teaching time). This disruption is not as dependent upon the yearly average decibel level as with the number of instances of interference. If the airplane is audible in the classroom, a disruption will occur.

4. The FAA will create and fund local land use planning and a third party "noise trust" to ensure that non-compatible uses are not permitted around airports and that property owners are properly compensated.

This has been discussed above.

5. The FAA will assist State and local governments and planning agencies in establishing policies and practices to minimize noise sensitive land uses around airports, including locally determined buffers outside areas of significant noise exposure, and by guaranteeing that areas currently not impacted by aviation noise will remain so in the future.

Land use planning is worthless if local and state planners cannot depend absolutely on the noise exposure, including frequency and night time flights not growing in the future. Without such guarantees, planning is an ineffective and costly noise abatement measure.

6. The FAA will create a 10 mile buffer around non-urban national parks and other sensitive wild lands.

This has been discussed above.

7. The FAA will support noise compatibility planning and noise mitigation projects with financial programs under its jurisdiction, with airport rates and charges policy, and by encouraging innovative funding mechanisms.

Authorities and Responsibilities

The FAA should acknowledge that its noise abatement efforts have failed and that the current laws are insufficient to abate aviation noise. One of the primary reasons for this failure is that the FAA has not followed the recommendations of the EPA. Given the FAA's failure, the EPA should be the one to set the appropriate noise impact levels for the public. The FAA does not have the expertise with which to make decisions regarding public health and welfare, has a significant conflict of interest, and has proven itself unable to abate aviation noise. The Aviation Noise Abatement Policy should note that 49 USC 44715 must be change to reflect the above comments before serious aviation noise abatement can occur.

The FAA should also acknowledge that current laws prevent noise abatement because they limit liability of airport and airplane owners. Under the ANCA, proprietors can revise existing noise and access restrictions that were implemented before the passage of this act, but they cannot implement a new one without the FAA’s approval. Thus, it appears as though the statute has preempted any new noise or access restrictions. While the statute gives the federal government what seems to be complete control, it only imposes liability to the extent that a taking has occurred. This appears to shield the federal government from liability while allowing the proprietor no way to limit its liability. Liability under the takings doctrine is a constitutional standard and is very difficult to meet. The likelihood of a successful claim is very remote. This leaves almost all liability to rest on the proprietor, while at the same time not allowing a proprietor to act. Therefore, since the federal government will not be liable and the proprietor will argue that he is not liable because he is acting in accordance with the statute, the public will be left with no recourse.

The FAA should acknowledge that regulations are needed for all sizes and types of aircraft and that noisy craft less than 75,000 need to be phased out to adequately abate noise. Moreover, since Stage 2 and Stage 3 do not address propeller aircraft, the proprietor of an airport that operates commercial propeller aircraft is not banned from instituting noise and access restrictions.

Legal Responsibilities of State and Local Governments

The FAA should acknowledge that free flight is a serious threat to noise abatement. According to the American Airlines v. Town of Homestead, local ordinances and laws couldn’t alter the FAA promulgated flight patterns. Thus, it would be acceptable to enact an ordinance so long as it does not effect a published air route. However, with the introduction of free flight which “permit[s] aircraft operators to select their own routes,” all airspace is an FAA promulgated route. Thus, there can be no local ordinance or law.

Legal Responsibilities of Airport Proprietors

This proposal lays out the legal framework for a proprietor imposing a restriction, but does not lay out the framework for the FAA’s approval process of a noise or access restriction. FAA should provide its interpretation of the ANCA and criteria for approval, and ensure that noise abatement can easily be carried out by proprietors.

The FAA should acknowledge that laws and policies severely limit what a proprietor can do to limit his/her liability, severely limiting the role of the proprietor in abating aviation noise.

Assessing Aviation Noise

FAA should acknowledge that current methods of assessing aviation noise are totally inadequate and not supported by scientific study. The use of 65 dBA DNL to determine the onset of substantial impact understates the substantial impacts of aviation noise to millions of people.

DNL 65 is inadequate for several reasons. From a scientific perspective, it is not supported by research. The 65 decibel level is derived from the “Schultz Curve,” which correlated people reporting being “highly annoyed” by noise with noise levels. However, substantial impact occurs well before people become highly annoyed. In addition, the data used in the Shultz Curve for airports shows that "highly annoyed" occurs around 57 decibels, not 65 (Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, Dec. 1998, 3432). By averaging highway noise data with aviation noise data, the affect of aviation noise is vastly understated.

The EPA had identified 55 dBA DNL as a more appropriate noise level. The 55 dBA DNL value, while being more in line with recent reexaminations of the Schultz curve, remains inadequate for two reasons:

  1. Using the “A” scale does not adequately account for low frequency noise. The "A" weighting discounts low frequency noise by 40 or more decibels. A standard that accounts for low frequency noise using the “C” weighting is necessary to reflect the impact of low frequency noise, such as 65 dBC DNL.
  2. The DNL refers to a “day-night level,” a yearly average. Averages, however, do not adequately account for the impacts of aircraft noise on individuals. Averages hide "single events" and it is these single loud noises as the airplanes fly overhead that can disrupt sleep and adversely impact an individual's well-being. Being awakened early or not getting a full night's sleep can negatively affect the individual's activities throughout the day - at work, traveling, and at home. Loud "single noise events" also intrude on conversations, television viewing, reading, and speaking on the telephone. These "single events" rob people of a decent quality of life and have lasting health effects. Most communities restrict single events to 55-65 dBA in residential areas. A 75 dBC maximum corresponds to the upper end of that range. A noise level loud enough to be a violation of a community noise ordinance (if it came from another source) should be considered a significant noise impact.

An effective noise abatement policy would define significant impact as any one of the following:

Section 4.2 sets up several strawman alternatives to the 65 DNL metric, which it then discredits. Instead, the FAA should have tried to explain why waking a family at night is not a significant noise impact. Ignoring such an important noise impact highlights the insufficiency of the proposed Aviation Noise Abatement Policy.

Aircraft Research in National Parks

The FAA should acknowledge that efforts to restore natural quiet to the Grand Canyon have failed. The FAA is wasting time and money to study the nature and impact of aviation noise on wilderness areas. Natural quiet can easily and effectively be measured by the human ear. If it is audible, it is significantly impacting the values and resources of the park or wild land.

Research on Low Frequency noise

Low frequency noise does not need to be studied; it needs to be eliminated. People should not have their homes and windows shaking because of aircraft.

Potential Gains from Source Noise Reduction Research

If it is true, as claimed, that there are no provisions in either Federal Law or FAA regulation that are directed at phasing out airplanes of not more than 75,000 pounds, the FAA should acknowledge their lack of authority as a major hindrance to noise abatement, particularly around smaller airports.

Part III: Conclusions

I would like to conclude by noting that not only is the proposed Aviation Noise Abatement Policy seriously inadequate and in need of massive revisions (described above). The people who live near airports must every day live with the FAA's failure to understand, take seriously, and abate the aviation noise problem. Major revisions of the Policy should be made based on these and other comments of neighbors of airports, and the revised policy should again be released for public comment before it is finalized.

Summary of Key Points

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