Posts Tagged ‘aircraft noise’

So why are you complaining?

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

by Nick Miller

S'Martin- S'Mararten

Maybe one person’s noise is another person’s music. Train horns in the distance can have a kind of nostalgic sound, but people who live near a grade crossing may not think so. (Try a room on the back side of the Hampton Inn San Diego – Downtown. You might take your earplugs.) Find any newspaper article on the Internet about aircraft noise complaints, check the comments and you’ll find things like “These folks should have known they are buying near an airport,” or considerably snarkier. Which might be a reasonable remark except even knowing doesn’t translate to a real awareness of what living with loud aircraft overflights day-after-day is really like. Of course, what realtor or home owner is going to try to alert the prospective buyer to the reality of life near an airport?

Quite a few airports require that home buyers receive some sort of disclosure statement, but all the ones I know about are presented at the closing. A little late, don’t you think? The only possibly effective method I know of is attempted by DFW airport. They try to get realtors to send in home buyers, and DFW shows them large displays of where aircraft fly. Much better, I think, than telling the buyer their house is in a noise zone or is within some decibel value of a noise contour. Who’s going to understand that?

I feel quite certain that most people who buy a home in the near vicinity of a commercial air carrier airport (say within 1 to 5 miles, depending on specific location and the level of operations at the airport) are unaware of what it can be like to live there day-after-day, night-after-night. I find it quite interesting, however, that there is a predominant meme that posits house prices reflect the acceptability of aircraft noise (hedonic pricing method). In other words, people pay less for such homes because they discount the price since they will have to live with the noise. Using hedonic pricing assumes that the buyer decides what to pay because he knows what he’s buying. That’s fine for buying a 60-inch flat screen TV to replace a 20-inch flat screen. But I think it’s an inaccurate means of assigning a cost to noise, or “monetizing” aircraft noise so that it can be compared with other costs (e.g. air quality health effects) or benefits (e.g. accessibility to transportation) of living near an airport. Studies seem generally to show a reduction in house price of 10% to 12% per 10 dB increase in aircraft noise, beginning at some identified lower level where there is an assumed no effect of aircraft noise.

But does this method really reflect the “cost” of noise? Some argue that noise is a quality of life issue upon which no price can be placed – a problem common to many amenities, such as low crime rates, clean streets or green spaces. Another way of thinking about the cost of noise, if we must, is how community dislike of noise affects decision-making about airports. Think about the many years (decades even) that it takes to propose, approve, design and build a new runway or a runway lengthening. What are the costs of the many studies reported as drafts, revisions, and revisions of revisions and associated public meetings, to say nothing of the costs of delayed construction and travel delays due to insufficient air travel capacity?

Finally, here’s an incident I recall reading about, but can’t verify for certain. Someone living in Northeast Harbor, ME, didn’t like the sound he could hear of the local sewage treatment plant. He asked the town if they could quiet it, getting the reply that they didn’t have the money to modernize it. So he donated, I believe, $60,000 to help the town pay for the quieting. Whether accurately remembered or not, I believe the substance is correct, and this story suggests to me a possible short-coming of asking people how much they would be willing to pay for less noise. The answer probably depends on what resources they have available.

HMMH Fall Tour 2015: On the Road Again

Friday, November 13th, 2015

by Mary Ellen Eagan

I’ve been on the road this fall at conferences – a whole lot of air miles, too many hotels, chicken lunches, and name tags (someday these will be designed for wearing on something other than a suit jacket lapel), but lots of great discussions, more than a few cocktails with good friends, and many laughs along the way. Some common themes emerged; here’s a recap of my highlights/takeaways:


Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) Global Sustainability Aviation Summit (Geneva)

At ATAG, ACI and Canso jointly released a document entitled Managing the Impacts of Aviation Noise, which provides a concise summary of airport noise issues, strategies for mitigation, and an extensive series of case studies. On community engagement, the report recommends following guidance issued in Eurocontrol’s Collaborative Environmental Management (CEM). One key difference between the European approach and ours is that the airport is at the center of the discussion. I am pleased to have contributed to the document.



ACI World Environment Standing Committee (Geneva)

Australia has seen good success in improving relations by having a very engaged and completely independent Aircraft Noise Ombudsman, who serves as a neutral party facilitating discussion of noise abatement alternatives, and educating the public using language that is not jargon. The Australians also provide guidance to airports (and others) on how to properly address complaints. And Canada recently released an Airspace Change Communications and Consultation Protocol for engaging communities and other stakeholders in discussion of proposed airspace changes. It, too, puts airports at the center of the discussion.



ACI-NA Annual Conference and Environmental Affairs Seminar (Long Beach)

My presentation at ACI focused on the concept of social license to operate (SLO), which originated in the mining industry. The premise of SLO is straightforward: owners of businesses and other enterprises that generate negative externalities must secure permission from stakeholders in order to grow – sometimes even to operate. And that permission is earned (not simply granted), by engaging stakeholders in a relationship that evolves from acceptance to trust. As shown in the illustration below from Social License institute, deteriorating levels of trust can lead to active political engagement and protest, as we’ve recently seen with the No Fly movement.


EFCG CEO Conference (New York)

This annual gathering of almost 300 CEO’s of firms in the A&E industry provides great perspective on the state of the industry, trends in financial results and other industry benchmarks, and an opportunity for firm leaders to share experiences on all kinds of issues facing our industry, including talent shortages, ownership transition models, and implications of new business models, technologies, and regulations. My favorite moment of the conference was my realization – during a fancy dinner at the Harvard Club – that the nine other CEO’s I was dining with were more interested in talking about their pets than their businesses. CEOs are people, too.



AAAE Basics of Airport Law Conference (Washington)

John Putnam (KKR) and I provided a session on emerging noise issues. Much of that discussion focused on PBN issues, the challenges posed by NEPA requirements in evaluating PBN procedures (not only at individual airports, but on a metroplex scale), and implications of FAA Reauthorization on airport noise issues.



ACC Annual Conference (Newport Beach)

There was much discussion at the Annual Meeting on the need to engage politically in conversations about airport development. ACC President TJ Schultz’s knowledge and insight into FAA funding and other political realities provides ACC member firms (especially small ones like HMMH) with context for making strategic decisions. I am honored to have been elected incoming Secretary/Treasurer for 2016, and look forward to serving on the ACC Executive Board with Don Bergin and Roddy Boggus.



ACI-NA Marketing and Communications Conference (Nashville)

ACI-NA’s Marketing and Communications conference held a session on airport noise. This is very exciting to me because the longer I’m in this business, the more I’m convinced that a good deal of airport noise issues can be addressed by better communication. I’ve come to this for several reasons: (1) first, we know that only about 30% of people’s annoyance to aircraft noise can be attributed to the noise level – that leaves a lot of opportunity for using “non-acoustic” measures to address noise issues; (2) after 30+ years in this industry, I am positive that people don’t suddenly start complaining about aircraft noise unless there has been some change in their environment or their life: a new runway, a new procedure, a new home, a new job (and increasingly, retirement). Working with stakeholders to understand the reasons for those changes often goes a long way toward resolving annoyance – sometimes it can be addressed, but even when it can’t, folks generally are satisfied that they have been listened to and validated.

Bottom line: sometimes the best consulting one can offer is to listen.


Looking forward to a brief respite (though I’m presenting remotely to the Aircraft Noise Non-Acoustic Group (ANNA) in The UK on Thanksgiving – hopefully not messing up the turkey too badly in the process). Then back on the road again in December to wrap up the year at ACC/BAG Global Business Summit (London) and ACI/ACC Planning and NEPA Workshop (Washington).



ERAU Is Pushing the Envelope Yet Again!

Friday, May 16th, 2014

by Diana Wasiuk

Graduates of my alma mater, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU), have a reputation for ‘pushing the envelope’ in more than one way… The Small Aircraft Transportation System (SATS) was one of those forward thinking ideas that only a bunch of aviation nuts could come up with and commit to with boundless enthusiasm. And boy did we ever!  Here is an article on another example of ERAU pushing for innovation: developing electric propulsion systems to reduce noise and emissions:

TRB e-circular “Critical Issues in Aviation and the Environment” published

Friday, April 18th, 2014

By Mary Ellen Eagan

TRB recently published Circular E-C184: “Critical Issues in Aviation and the Environment.” The following summarizes the content of the e-circular.

“Critical Issues in Aviation and the Environment 2014” consists of twelve individually authored sections, representing the authoring experts’ opinions on issues that address the major environmental components affected by aviation activities, sustainable solutions that have evolved and continue to be developed to minimize environmental impacts, and the key processes that link aviation and the environment.

Readers of prior e-circulars in this series may notice that we no longer include a stand-alone section on “sustainability”.  This is because the Committee believes that sustainability is a cross-cutting issue that affects all topics in the environment – it is a way of operating, not an “issue”.  We have added several new topics to this volume:

  1. Natural resource management:  Airports are challenged to address natural resource management issues related to wildlife hazards, natural resource revenue generation (e.g., timber, minerals, energy), and water conservation.
  2. Renewable energy:  this section addresses major issues airports should consider when identifying and developing renewable energy alternatives.
  3. Public Health:  an emerging issue that several airports are facing is the need to develop health impact assessments and health risk assessments to respond to community concerns regarding the impact of airports on communities.

The individually authored sections of this e-circular represent the viewpoints of the attributed authors.  Members and friends of the TRB Environmental Impacts of Aviation Committee have also reviewed and contributed comments to these sections.

Many thanks go to the authors (listed below, by paper):

Environmental Impacts of Aviation on Human and Natural Resources  

  • Noise: Natalia Sizov (Federal Aviation Administration), Brad Rolf (Mead & Hunt), Mary Ellen Eagan (Harris Miller Miller & Hanson Inc.)
  • Air Quality: John Pehrson (CDM), Warren Gillette (Federal Aviation Administration), Brian Kim (Wyle), Prem Lobo (Missouri University of Science and Technology)
  • Climate Change: Judith Patterson (Science College, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada ), Mohan Gupta (Federal Aviation Administration), Rangasayi Halthore (Federal Aviation Administration), Anuja Mahashabde (The MITRE Corporation, McLean, VA)
  • Water Quality: Dean Mericas (Mead & Hunt), John Lengel (Gresham Smith & Partners), Richard Davis (Beveridge & Diamond, P.C.)

Sustainable Solutions to Address Environmental Challenges

  • Climate Change Adaptation Planning and Preparedness: John Lengel (Gresham, Smith and Partners), Kristin Lemaster (CDM Smith), Judith Patterson (Concordia University), Andrea Schwartz Freeburg (Federal Aviation Administration)
  • Natural Resource Management: Dean Mericas (Mead & Hunt), Sarah Brammell (Environmental Resource Solutions)
  • Renewable Energy: Steve Barrett (Harris Miller Miller & Hanson Inc.), Bruno Miller (Metron Aviation), Phil Ralston (Port of Portland)
  • Aviation Alternative Fuels Development And Deployment:  Bruno Miller (Metron Aviation), Steve Csonka (CAAFI), Kristin Lewis (Volpe Center/RITA, Jim Hileman (FAA), Mark Rumizen (FAA), Nancy Young (Airlines for America), and John Heimlich (Airlines for America)

Processes and Tools for Implementing Sustainable Solutions

  • Environmental Review under NEPA:  Mary Vigilante (Synergy Consultants), Brad Rolf (Mead & Hunt), John Putnam (Kaplan Kirsch & Rockwell), Donald Scata (FAA), Betsy Delaney (First Environment), Barbara Thomson (First Environment)
  • Environmental Management Systems And Sustainability Measurement: Mary Vigilante (Synergy Consultants), Brad Rolf (Mead & Hunt), John Putnam (Kaplan Kirsch & Rockwell), Donald Scata (FAA), Betsy Delaney (First Environment), Barbara Thomson (First Environment)
  • Aviation Environmental Modeling Tool Suite:  James Hileman (Federal Aviation Administration), Christopher Roof (USDOT RITA)
  • Research Needs in Public Health In Aviation:  Burr Stewart (Burrst), Andrew Dannenberg (CDC), Brian Kim (Wyle), Daniel Jacob (Federal Aviation Administration)


HMMH Throwback Thursday (TBT): Field Trips in the Pre-internet Age

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

by Mary Ellen Eagan

My first data collection (“field”) trip was in the spring of 1985.  We were supporting litigation (at an unnamed airport), and needed to know how flight schedules had changed over time (in order to prepare comparison DNL contours).  I was given the daunting task of going to Eastern Airlines Headquarters in Miami (at the time, Eastern was the only known source of historic flight schedule information) to copy pages from the Official Airline Guide (OAG), which looked something like this. 

Official Airline Guide

Official Airline Guide


The data needed to be re-typed (into Lotus spreadsheets), sorted, etc. – just to determine average daily flights on any given route.


OAG flight schedules

OAG flight schedules


That’s how the glamor began.

From Miami, I flew to Portland, Maine for my first trip involving instruments (alas, I’ve been unable to locate a photograph of a Digital Acoustics 607 noise monitor).  Nick Miller and I were measuring noise levels near Naval Air Station Brunswick, home of Pat Wing 5 and the P-3 Orion Naval Patrol. 


NAS Brunswick, Maine

NAS Brunswick, Maine


What I remember most about that trip – and tell my girls every time we drive past the old base (the base is gone – it’s now Brunswick Executive Airport, but the Fat Boy Drive-in is still going strong!) is that I was so engrossed in managing the noise monitor that I actually screamed the first time an aircraft flew overhead.  In my defense, that plane (a P-3) was on short final and probably at 100’ altitude (I know, because I got to figure that out later) and very quiet.  It was my first experience with ‘startle’.  What I also remember is Nick’s equanimity in the situation, while inside he must have been wondering just how long my career at HMMH would last.

There are so many differences between then and now, but the thing I miss most is the opportunity to get to know colleagues on a personal level.  In those pre-Internet days, once the sun went down, we were done working for the day – no email, no work in the hotel room, no cell phones even to call home.  It left lots of time for exploring neighborhoods, which could sometime be a challenge near remote Naval Air Stations – but who doesn’t like a challenge?  For example, in the photo below, Bob Miller is seen defending me from an unseen rattlesnake near Midland (TX).  We may be way more efficient these days, but are we still having fun?


snake hunting near Midland, TX, 1986

snake hunting near Midland, TX, 1986