Volusia neighbors, airports at odds over noise
By DINAH VOYLES PULVER, Environment writer
October 2, 2011 12:05 AM
An airplane flies over a neighborhood along Turnbull Bay Road as the pilot prepares to land at New Smyrna Beach Municipal Airport on Sept. 22. (N-J | Dinah Voyles Pulver)
Jason Kring, left, an assistant professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, works with a group of students earlier last month to test how experimental equipment on an aircraft might help reduce noise. (N-J | Dinah Voyles Pulver)
Regina Leibowitz stands in her yard on Turnbull Bay Road on Thursday as one of the many airplanes that takeoff from New Smyrna Beach Municipal Airport passes overhead. (N-J | David Tucker)
Typical Sound Levels
In decibels, a measurement of sound amplitude:
165: 12-gauge shotgun
115135: Jet airliner at 100 feet
115: Leaf blower/rock concert
103108: NASCAR’s Brickyard 400, in the stands, 2009
98: Home lawn mower
9599: Cessnas on takeoff, from runway at DBIA
92: Heavy city traffic
75-76: Cessna 172, 500 feet overhead, from runway at DBIA
75: Washing machine
60: Older urban residential area
5565: Typical speech
4580: Clothes dryer
3555: Bird songs and calls
32: Midnight in a quiet home
SOURCES: DangerousDecibels.org; Federal Aviation Administration; News-Journal research
At 5.2 million air operations last year, Florida has more air traffic than any other state but California, which had 6.5 million.
How do local airports rank nationally among FAA airports, including general aviation, commercial and contract towers, in total operations?
Daytona Beach: 34
New Smyrna Beach: 79
Ormond Beach: 111
How do they rank in Florida:
Daytona Beach: 4
New Smyrna Beach: 10
Ormond Beach: 18
The airports’ estimated annual economic impact:
Daytona: $741 million
DeLand-Bob Lee: $43,800
DeLand Munic: $217 million
New Smyrna Beach: $94 million
Ormond Beach: $49 million
Flagler: $120 million
SOURCES: Florida Department of Transportation; FAA
Keep Noise Down
Selected noise abatement measures by area airports:
All runways left-hand traffic.
· Reduce power on downwind.
· Ask pilots to use nationally accepted noise abatement measures.
· Runway-specific recommendations.
· Avoid noise sensitive areas south of airport.
· Touch and goes prohibited if three or more aircraft in the pattern.
Recommends large turbo jets use certain runways for arrivals between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. to extent possible and avoid using others.
· Limit touch and go operations on Runway 7R-25L between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. and remain north of Beville Road in flight.
· Asks small aircraft to avoid departing over Pelican Bay.
Right-hand traffic on one runway.
· Special traffic pattern for military helicopters.
· Ask jet operators to use nationally accepted noise abatement measures.
NEW SMYRNA BEACH
Avoid Sunday flight training activities.
· Increase traffic pattern altitude from 800 feet to 1,000 feet.
· Limit touch and go operations to no more than eight.
· Rotate runway plan in calm wind conditions.
· Educate pilots on the importance of optimum propeller settings.
Runway specific recommendations, such as left-hand patterns on two runways and right-hand on two others.
· Avoid turning south or east over subdivisions.
· Refrain from repetitive flight activities between hours of 10 p.m. and 8 a.m.
· Review Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Noise Awareness Steps and use when practicable.
SOURCES: The airports
NEW SMYRNA BEACH — The instinct for many residents along Turnbull Bay is the same: Linger on the porch to enjoy their scenic view.
But all too often for some the peaceful setting is soon interrupted by the drone of an airplane — or two or three or four — as student pilots practice landing and taking off at the city’s airport just across the bay, barely touching wheels to ground before climbing back into the sky.
A similar tableau plays out in neighborhoods across Volusia and Flagler counties, considered an area with the busiest civilian flight training centers in the world. On average, a plane takes off or lands somewhere in the two counties every 40 seconds.
To some, that overhead chorus represents an economic engine, pumping more than $1.2 billion a year into the local economy.
The benefits are “huge,” says Steve Cooke, director of business development at Daytona Beach International Airport.
To others, the droning means constant aggravation, disrupting meals, sleep and the dream of a peaceful retirement.
“It’s horrendous,” Regina Leibowitz says of the noise in her neighborhood, across Turnbull Bay from the New Smyrna Beach Municipal Airport. “You can’t eat, you can’t sleep, you can’t have conversation, you can’t have people over and Sundays are not your own.”
The struggle over airport noise its volume and frequency surfaces from time to time at every local airport, with conflicts over what, if anything, could or should be done to reduce the noise. It has recently taken flight again in New Smyrna Beach, where the airport received 50 noise complaints during the first six months of 2011.
By all accounts, the biggest noise generator is student pilot training. It accounts for about 60 to 80 percent of local airport traffic. Roughly 20 flight schools operate locally, including Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which helped draw the others, all attracted by the optimum weather and available air space.
It’s a local tradition that dates back to World War II, when the United States military operated training fields in Daytona Beach, DeLand, Flagler County and New Smyrna Beach.
For now, the amount of air traffic isn’t increasing. Records show flight operations peaked locally in 2008, then declined, a trend seen nationally during the recession. Aviation, experts say, is one of the first industries to feel the effects and one of the last to recover.
But, when it does, flight operations are expected to increase locally by more than 10 percent within five years, according to Florida Department of Transportation estimates. And that will almost certainly prompt more noise complaints.
The complaints, airport managers say, generally come from the same neighborhoods, those directly under the paths where planes take off and land. National studies have shown such areas, particularly around larger commercial airports, often have lower property values because of the noise.
Airport noise protests have grown in volume across the country, prompting efforts in the industry, including at ERAU, to try to further reduce noise. ERAU recently began a series of tests on experimental modifications to mufflers and propellers.
All sides agree the options are largely limited by the Federal Aviation Administration, which governs airports, regulates air traffic and training and doles out grant money. The agency requires public airports be open 24/7 and doesn’t allow airports to impose mandatory rules restricting flight operations.
AIRPORTS TAKING STEPS
Locally, the five larger airports have adopted numerous measures to try to reduce noise, including adjusting traffic patterns to steer flights away from residential neighborhoods and keep aircraft in tight patterns over airports.
“We all want to be good neighbors and do noise reduction to the best of our abilities,” said Roy Sieger, airport manager for Flagler County.
But the issue continues to fester.
Daytona Beach had a flurry of noise complaints over the summer during a four-month runway construction project that required a diversion from regular flight paths. As soon as things went back to normal, says Cooke, the complaints went away.
DeLand and Flagler County report “a handful” of complaints over the past two years.
After starting its voluntary noise abatement procedures for pilots in 2009, the Ormond Beach Municipal Airport had a 67 percent reduction in noise complaints, says airport manager Steve Lichliter. But noise, he says, is “an ongoing issue.”
Norm Echelberry, who maintains a website on Ormond Beach airport noise, says he thinks most people gave up complaining. He and others grew frustrated when it became clear the FAA allows airports to do little besides ask pilots to avoid flying over residential areas.
“It’s like how many times can you report something and there’s actually nothing the city of Ormond Beach could do,” Echelberry says.
The airports ask pilots to take measures, such as climb as high as possible before leaving airport space, avoid late night and early morning landings and limit repetitive touch and goes. The touch and goes