Saturday, September 14, 2013

Do you understand the Airplane Noise Issue affecting Southwest Minneapolis?

In late August, nearly 400 local residents gathered to talk with an official of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and U.S. Reps. Keith Ellison and Erik Paulsen about the effect a new airport flight control system might have on the well-being of residents in South and Southwest Minneapolis, Edina, and Richfield.

A new flight control system that will at least partially be implemented at Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport will concentrate more planes over our neighborhoods.

What will happen?
The new system allows plans to use GPS navigation to guide planes in a much narrower flight pattern during takeoff and landings. The end result might be that planes will fly directly over the same houses night after night, with very little variance. Currently planes use slightly more fuel taking a wider berth in approaching and leaving the airport.

What don't we know?
One major concern expressed at the late August meeting was that there have not been reliable results from environmental studies examining the potential health effects of repeated noise from airplanes. Ellison and Paulsen wanted to learn more in order to shape legislative policies.

This new FAA system has been implemented in many major airports. The New York Times quoted one aviation consultant, who strongly backs a noise study, and advises that the maximum allowable level of 65 decibels (to reduce hearing loss) should be lowered to 55 decibels, because of a wider realization that noise level affects high blood pressure and stress. Lower noise levels, he told The Times, also leads to better sleep, better school grades, and more valuable houses.

One New Yorker who commented on the new noise level in Queens, New York, said, from 6am to 2am, "You can’t even have a conversation in your own living room. You can’t hear the television. You can’t talk on the phone."

What do the FAA and airlines say?
The FAA told The Times that airline noise actually affects fewer households, since the planes come in at a narrower berth. The FAA and airlines also say the more precise navigation allows them to glide in rather than keep engines powered up, resulting in lower emissions and less noise. But whether this impact has been underestimated, or understated, is not yet known.

(For more interesting information from this article, click here.)

Do you want to learn more?
Locally, several Minneapolis residents are leading the way toward greater discussion of this issue -- and keeping pressure on the FAA to not simply quietly implement a new plan.

One local advocate is Michael Kehoe, who reported on the e-democracy forum: "From this point on, we may have to be prepared to be more active than in the recent past. The FAA is determined to put this plan into operation and we will have to periodically stand together and to make our views known... We must be prepared to put ourselves out and attend a meeting or sign a petition when it's needed. Only by standing together and insisting that our quality of life is more important than the airlines saving a very small amount of money, will we have any chance of winning this very difficult battle. Remember this, we are not asking for complete non-implementation of their master plan - we only want an adjustment that will maintain our quality of life. Once the airplanes have taken off and reached an appropriate altitude (perhaps 4,000 ft.) they can then tap into the RNAV/PBN protocols and continue their navigation according to that system."
 For more information, also read this Star Tribune article.

What do you think? Have you participated in the discussions? What can you share about the issue?


  1. You don't need a fancy study to determine what health effects repeated airplane noise has on people. Come over to Richfield where I live and interview me. It's time for South Minneapolis and Edina to share some noise. Quit being so selfish and turning a blind eye to us that have been dealing with this for years.

  2. I live on Upton Ave. in Linden Hills and the airplane noise is deafening. I can't open a bedroom window at night. During the d

  3. The Richfield commentor obviously doesn't understand the issue. This plan will not have planes somehow magically stop flying over Richfield in order to get to Edina and southwest Minneapolis. What it will do is concentrate flights over certain areas of those cities (INCLUDING Richfield) rather than sharing the wealth as is currently done. So your home could very well see the same flight increases that are being discussed here with the main difference being that flights would be even lower and louder for the portion of "super highways" over Richfield. Sounds to me like we should be on the same side on this issue.

  4. Commercial aircraft especially have very little "wiggle" room during takeoff and climb out with regard to engine settings to achieve the safety margin required in their operating manuals. This will always be "loud". We need some commercial pilots to chime in on how they actually operate the aircraft during the first 2-3 minutes after power up and once established above @ 1500 feet above the ground (safety margin), then maneuver toward their respectve destinations. Those of us with homes below these departing planes need to recognize how all these procedures piece together to achieve safety in the sky. These are large airplanes, usually full of humans. Be carefull what you wish for.


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