Posts Tagged ‘ACI-NA’

Congratulations Mary Vigilante!

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

by Mary Ellen Eagan

This year ACI-NA added a new category to its annual Environmental Achievement Awards to recognize an individual for outstanding contributions to the ACI-NA Environmental Affairs Committee. The winner of the first-ever Peer Recognition for Outstanding Individual Contribution and Leadership Award is Mary L. Vigilante, President of Synergy Consultants, Inc.

Vigilante previously served as co-chair of the Committee’s National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Working Group, in which she aided airports and associate members to understand how to improve their NEPA efforts. She has been involved with ACI-NA for more than 20 years and has contributed a wealth of experience to the committee.

Mary has been a mentor and inspiration.  It’s great to see her recognized for her contributions to the industry.  Bravissimo!

Photo of Mary Vigilante

Mary Vigilante

Photo of ACI-NA award

2014 ACI-NA Environmental Achievement Award to Mary Vigilante

Report from 2012 ACI-NA/World Conference & Exhibition

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

by Mary Ellen Eagan

I’m just back from the 2012 ACI-NA/World Conference in Calgary, Alberta.  Highlights of the weekend’s Environmental Affairs Conference included the following:

The ACI-NA/World Conference and Exhibition kicked off with the Calgary White Hat Ceremony, a symbol of the Western hospitality and good cheer that made everyone feel very welcome.  Somehow I’m having trouble imagining that happening with a bunch of Red Sox hats…

Calgary White Hats Ceremony

Monday’s keynote speaker was Zanny Minton Beddoes, Economics editor for The Economist. She had some great things to say about her predictions for the economy, some of which was actually reassuring (for a change).

The Exhibit Hall was the usual mélange of consulting firms, concessionaires, and airport engineering products and services – everything from carpets to trains.  The Hall is always a great chance to catch up with folks – see who has switched companies, grab a latte, check out who has the best swag, etc.

Finally, I must say I was disappointed not to get a chance to explore Calgary, which seems a vibrant city, awash in oil and gas money. What little I did see (see photos below of the Family of Man and The Famous Five) was beautiful. Next time!

Family of Man, Calgary

Famous 5 Statue (not Clint Eastwood!), Calgary


We are here! We are here!

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

by Mary Ellen Eagan

I’m just back from ACI-NA’s Annual Conference.  As usual, it was a great opportunity to find out the latest on industry trends, network with colleagues, and have a little fun.

Airports Council International logo

This year’s conference was also especially rewarding for me, because we demonstrated that we can have a voice if we mobilize, articulate our expectations (Occupy Wall Street could learn something from the ACI-NA Noise Working Group here!), and bring consistent messages to decision-makers.

So here’s the story:  the FAA has been drafting a Program Guidance Letter on Eligibility for FAA-funded Residential Sound Insulation Programs (RSIP) for several months.  A significant point of concern is the expectation that this PGL will make clear that homes will need to meet a two-step eligibility criteria:  (1) that they are exposed to exterior noise levels of more than DNL 65, and (2) that the interior noise level exceeds DNL 45 dB.   Both ACI and ACC have been sharing concerns with FAA regarding this guidance, but it seemed to no avail until this weekend.  During the Environmental Affairs Committee’s Preconference Seminar, Dan Frazee of SAN (Noise Working Group Chair) and Michael Hotaling of C&S Companies gained the attention of other ACI-NA airports by stressing the urgency of this issue.  Here are some of the key points made in those discussions (thanks again to Michael for summarizing):

  • Consistency – Airports have, in good faith, implemented the programs approved by FAA under Part 150 with Records of Approval that have simply stated that residential structures within the DNL 65 dB contour are eligible. Airport sponsors nationwide have been consistent in their strategies to invest AIP grant funds and reporting to FAA the results of their progress through annual status reports and acoustical testing reports. The spirit and intent of Aviation Safety and Noise Abatement Act (ASNA) is focused on a premise of consistency.
  • Lack of Legal and Technical Basis for the PGL – FAA has cited a number of historic pieces of legislation and guidance documents as the basis for this sudden change in interpretation to use DNL 45 dB as a pre-requisite for a home to be treated. Research as far back as the Noise Control Act of 1974 has yet to reveal any legal basis for DNL 45 dB to be a defensible legal standard for acceptable interior noise levels.
  • Current AIP Handbook Conflicts – The current version of the AIP Handbook was published in 2005 and included the addition of language that Part 150 states DNL 45 dB is the threshold of compatibility. Part 150 does not indicate any interior noise level standard. It only speaks to the compatibility of land uses with respect to exterior noise levels.
  • Inconsistent Strategies for Allowed Mitigation Measures – The application of a DNL 45 dB interior noise level as a pre-requisite for sound insulation treatment seems in conflict with the other mitigation options permitted by the AIP Handbook. There is no “secondary” qualification criteria in order for an airport sponsor to acquire a residential property or offer any of the other mitigation options.
  • Acoustic Testing Variability – The current methodology of conducting pre- and post-construction acoustic testing has a range of variability inherent to the process. The majority of the acoustic testing specialists follow American Society for Testing and Materials protocols and the accuracy of these protocols can range between two to four decibels. If FAA were to implement a strategy where DNL 45 dB became the new qualifying criteria, the variability in the testing process would significantly complicate the situation.
  • Spirit and Intent of ASNA – The spirit and intent of ASNA appears to have been to equip airport sponsors with the most flexible means of implementing programs to reduce noise for their communities. It is difficult to perceive from the language in ASNA that the intent was to exclude the majority of the homeowners from receiving the benefits of sound insulation. Rather, it appears the intent was to be inclusive.
  • Exposure – This sudden shift in policy application places airport sponsors with ongoing, or soon to begin, sound insulation programs in a very precarious position. San Diego International Airport’s Quieter Home Program has treated nearly 2,000 homes since it began in 1999 relying on AIP grants for 80% of program costs, and the FAR Part 150 Noise Compatibility Study Update that was approved by FAA in 2011 indicates there are approximately 9,000 homes remaining in the CNEL 65 dB contour. Changing program policy mid-stream that would likely eliminate the majority of those 9,000 homes from the program, in the middle of a multi-billion dollar capital improvement program would radically alter the community’s acceptance of that CIP. San Diego’s program is a result of a litigation settlement with the community because of noise impacts that dates back to the 1980s.
  • Public Relations Disaster – A noise mitigation program is the most visible and effective tool an airport sponsor can deploy to respond to community concerns and opposition. Sound insulation programs have been embraced by airport neighbors with most programs treating 90% or more of the homes within the DNL 65 dB contour in these voluntary programs. After investing significant time, energy and resources to recover from issues that arose early in the acquisition program at Louisville International Airport, the Airport Authority now enjoys a very effective trusting relationship with the community for the sound insulation program that began in 2008. This 1,200 home program has completed about 100 homes to date and a change in the policy would destroy the good will that the Airport Authority has worked so hard to build over the last 20 years.
  • Planning and Development Obstacles – Many airports have leveraged sound insulation programs to build the bond with the community who see the program as a fair trade-off for supporting (or at least not objecting to) master planning and capital development programs. Buffalo-Niagara International Airport has recently updated their NEMs which eliminated about 200 homes from the DNL 65 dB contour in their original 1,700 home program because of changes in the fleet mix operating at the airport. The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority worked carefully to send the message to the community that while it was unfortunate that homes were eliminated from the sound insulation program, it was a technical issue. While there has been some objection from the community, this change has been largely accepted because of the defensible technical issue. The PGL implementation would eliminate hundreds more homes and put NFTA in a precarious situation with the community in the middle of an airport master plan and ongoing capital program.
  • Evolving AIP Handbook – It is interesting to note the shift between the .38B (May 31, 2002) and .38C (June 28, 2005) versions of the AIP Handbook in the Noise Compatibility Projects chapter. The inclusion of language incorrectly stating that FAR Part 150 sets the interior standard at DNL 45 dB, suggests that a more thorough review of this chapter is warranted and that perhaps the most appropriate course of action is to revise the AIP Handbook to be in alignment with the letter and intent of ASNA. This seems to be a more practical and functional approach than a hastily launched PGL that would have devastating effects on airport noise mitigation programs.

Following the Environmental Affairs Committee discussion, Roy Fuhrmann (MSP), ACI-NA Environmental Affairs Committee Chair, presented the issue to the ACI-NA Board of Directors.  I’m told the discussion at the Board meeting lasted for twenty minutes.  Shortly after, phones starting ringing at FAA.

The end result:  at yesterday’s “Open Mike with FAA” session, Christa Fornarotto, FAA Associate Administrator for Airports acknowledged that FAA needs to “be in listening mode” on this issue, and that they will more actively engage in discussion with industry partners to arrive at an acceptable solution.  We all need to stay up to date on this issue – we’ll do our best from here.

After the meeting, I emailed Michael, and told him I felt like a “Who” from Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who.

Horton Hears the Who book cover

Source: Wikipedia, 2011

Report from ACI-NA Annual Conference and Pre-conference Workshops

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

by Mary Ellen Eagan

I’m still collecting my thoughts from nearly a week in Pittsburgh at ACI-NA’s 19th Annual Conference and Exhibit.  Here are the highlights:


I attended the GRI Workshop on Friday, September 24th (that would be the workshop that preceded the pre-conference seminar).  For those of you unfamiliar with the Global Reporting Initiative, it is an international framework for reporting on sustainability initiatives.  Four North American airports (Denver International, Portland International, San Diego International, and Toronto Pearson International) have participated over the last two years in the development of a Draft Airport Operator Sector Supplement (AOSS).  As the name implies, the AOSS is meant to provide additional airport-specific sustainability information that is not already provided through the G3 Sustainability Guidelines, which is the cornerstone of the GRI Sustainability Reporting Framework.  One obvious example is aircraft noise.  Here is a description of the proposed new performance indicator for airports to report on noise exposure:

  • 2.1 Identify the index most widely used in your country or at your airport to calculate the number and percentage change of people residing in areas affected by noise. Where no indicator exists, report using the Day Night Level (DNL), showing the number of people exposed to (55 and) 65 DNL. Where the metric covers a 24 hour period, information on noise during the night-time period can be expressed using a default Leq metric for an 8 hour period. The reporter must define the 8 hour period although flexibility is provided to set the start time to reflect cultural differences (for example, some reporters may regard night as being 22.00 to 06.00, while others may think 23.00 to 07.00 is more appropriate to local circumstances). 
  • 2.2 Specify the metric and the time period adopted and the thresholds applied for calculating exposure. To aid comparability between airports, the reporting threshold chosen should reflect the onset of significant annoyance.
  •  2.3 Report the number and percentage change of people residing in areas affected by noise. If metrics exist to calculate the number and percentage change of people residing in areas affected by noise for both day and night periods, please report information for both.

I’m still trying to interpret this recommendation, but my guess is that U.S. airports will be fine to simply report on the number of people exposed to DNL 65 dB and higher.  What’s not clear is whether airports should also report on the number of people exposed to DNL 55 dB and higher (not a common practice for most US airports).  This is an even more complicated question when you consider the statement that “the reporting threshold chosen should reflect the onset of significant annoyance” in the context of current ISO and other efforts to update the Schultz Curve.

Environmental Affairs Seminar

The Environmental Affairs Seminar was a two-day whirlwind of updates on a range of environmental issues facing airports:

Presentations from the seminar will be posted on the ACI-NA website shortly.

Then the conference began.

The annual conference is generally pretty light on substance (a good thing, after three days of intense meetings), but I did enjoy two sessions in particular:

Nick Bilton, Source: ACI-NA

Nick Bilton, Source: ACI-NA

  • Nick Bilton, lead technology writer for the New York Times Bits Blog gave an engaging keynote address on the use of technology and communication, with a particular emphasis on social networking.  I learned about foursquare, and though I don’t have enough of a social life to take advantage, I can see that it offers potential for airports.  He also showed an amazing video on instantaneous information flow, as illustrated by the death of Michael Jackson.
  • Deb Meehan of SH&E also gave an entertaining update on state of the airline industry.  She emphasized her belief that airline profits in the last 18 months have come at the expense of the traveling public – especially in terms of comfort – and that we should look for airlines to start competing on service.

 Looking forward to next year in San Diego!

Noise Outside DNL 65

Monday, October 5th, 2009

by Mary Ellen Eagan

Well, this is a blog post I’ve been thinking about for some time (probably since before I knew what a “blog” was – though I just learned that the term was coined in 1984 – ironically, the same year I started in this business), but is precipitated by the publication of ACRP Synthesis 16, Compilation of Noise Programs in Areas Outside the DNL 65, primary author, yours truly.


If you’ve been tracking my publications closely (or reading Airport Noise Report), you’ll already know the conclusions.  For those of you haven’t, I’ll summarize briefly.

The ACRP synthesis was based on an online survey of 43 airports, designed primarily to identify the airports’ reasons for addressing noise outside DNL 65, and the wide range of techniques used to address it.  The survey included five general questions regarding noise issues outside DNL 65.  I was not surprised by the results:

  • A majority of respondents (83%) indicated that noise issues outside DNL 65 were “important,” “very important” or “critical” to their airport.  The remaining 17% were evenly split, stating that noise issues outside the DNL 65 were “somewhat important” or “not at all important.”
  • How important are noise concerns outside DNL 65 for your airport?

    How important are noise concerns outside DNL 65 for your airport?

  • The most frequently listed method of minimizing noise outside the DNL 65 was operator education and outreach (74% of respondents), followed by noise abatement flight tracks (69%), preferential runway use programs (66%), noise abatement departure or arrival procedures (60%), and ground noise control (51%).
  • Eighty percent of respondents indicated that “community concerns” were the motivation for addressing noise outside the DNL 65; fifty-seven percent also indicated that “preventative planning” was a motivation.
  • Almost three-quarters of respondents (74%) indicated that more than 75% of their airport’s noise complaints came from people who live outside DNL 65.
  • The most common outreach tools to communicate with people exposed to noise outside DNL 65 are websites (74%), community meetings/forums (74%), online tracking (40%), and newsletters (40%).

The survey also found the following:

  • A majority of surveyed airports use noise abatement departure (63%) and arrival (51%) flight tracks and departure (54%) and arrival (40%) cockpit procedures to minimize noise over residential and other noise-sensitive neighborhoods.  However, among surveyed airports there is no consistency in methodology among airports for evaluating noise abatement outside DNL 65, and there is little guidance or support from the FAA on appropriate metrics or criteria for evaluating noise abatement procedures.
  • Most airports reported some procedures to minimize ground noise (69%); 25% of those airports reported that the procedures were developed primarily to address noise outside DNL 65, and an additional 38% reported that procedures were developed to address noise issues both inside and outside DNL 65.
  • More than half of the surveyed airports (57%) reported having land use compatibility measures that apply outside DNL 65.  The tools used by airports for land use compatibility planning include zoning, building permits that require sound insulation or residential and noise-sensitive non residential land uses, and disclosure to residents.
  • The majority of respondents (58%) do not provide sound insulation to homeowners living outside DNL 65.  However, 20% provide sound insulation for homes in contiguous neighborhoods (“block rounding”), and an additional 15% provide sound insulation for homes within the DNL 60 dB contour.
  • Nearly three-quarters of respondents (74%) reported that they use both websites and face to face meetings to communicate with people exposed to noise outside DNL 65.
  • The responding airports communicate with pilots about noise outside DNL 65 in a number of ways.  The most common are: pilot briefings (40%) and Jeppesen inserts (40%), posters and handouts (37%), and FAA standards (17%); other methods include airfield signage, Airport Facility Directory Special Notices, videos distributed through flight schools, and phone calls.

What does it mean?

As I said above, none of these findings surprise me – and for those of you who work around airports, you’ll probably feel validated.  The real question is what does it mean for public policy?  I will be talking about results of this survey twice in the next couple of weeks: first at the AAAE Airport Noise Mitigation Symposiumin Boca Raton, FL on October 6th, and the following week (October 11) at the ACI-NA Environmental Affairs Committee Seminar in Austin, TX.  I look forward to engaging discussion with you, and will try to post the highlights here for those of you that can’t join us.