Dear Neighbors —
This has been a bad summer for aviation noise. It has often felt as though we were back in 2012, with no relief in sight. I have had complaints from QQS members in Woodside, Sunnyside, Maspeth, MIddle Village, Rego Park, Forest HIlls, Richmond Hill, all of northeast Queens, even Port Washington and all points in between.
Although we have changed much around the edges of the problem, the essential core remains. Air traffic has steadily increased and profits increase with it. Aircraft fly lower, straighter and closer together to accommodate more traffic. No one who is making money has any obligation to care about what happens to the people under the flight routes. We are suffering daily so that corporations can make more money and New York City can replace revenue from offshored manufacturing industries with revenue from tourism.
If we can’t legislate a solution, we have to start looking at the problem in a different way. We might need a complete redesign of the flight routes in the NY metro area. We might need to get rid of the Airport Noise Capacity Act and reinstitute some local control of the airports. We definitely need new ways to measure the noise.
And we need all our elected officials to be on board to help all our communities. They should be protecting the interests of their constituents before the interests of corporations and real estate developers. They should be more concerned about what’s happening to residents here than with their relationships with the Port Authority and the big-bucks players of the Global Gateway Alliance and their ilk. Many of our electeds have been consistently terrific. A few have not.
In this newsletter, I am going to tell you about some things that have great promise for us in the future. Right now, though, things are pretty grim. I’ve been getting your emails and noise complaints. I am suffering right along with you. One thing I know for sure is that if we quit, we will never win anything. Together we are strong.
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NEWS FROM REP. TOM SUOZZI AND THE CONGRESSIONAL QUIET SKIES CAUCUS
On July 31st, I received documents from Rep. Tom Suozzi, co-chair of the House Quiet Skies Caucus. The documents are attached. One is a July 26th FAA power point presentation to Caucus members. The other is a letter from Rep. Suozzi outlining the contents of the FAA presentation, as well as some other actions taken by him and the Caucus.
In the presentation, the FAA acknowledged that it must do better at engaging the community. The agency said that because of community concerns, it has initiated several studies: sleep disturbance, children’s learning and cardiovascular health are among them. There is a community noise annoyance study in progress, as well as an initiative to collect and use noise complaints better. The FAA is raising noise standards on Stage 5 aircraft that will go into operation at the end of this year. Very importantly for us, the agency is considering returning to dispersion routes (so the planes don’t fly in the same narrow paths on departure and arrival). Many of these initiatives will help us in the long run.
I have one comment about the slide on page 16, titled “Aircraft Operations.” The FAA says that airlines decide WHEN plans will fly and “precision navigation” determines WHERE they will fly, but there is room to change HOW they will fly. None of these parameters are set in stone. There’s room for discussion on all three.
On page 24, the FAA responded to requests from the Caucus. Among other things, the FAA noted that areas outside the 65 DNL contour can be considered for noise mitigation if there is a Part 150 study in place. Okay, we have a Part 150 study going on right now. We asked for mitigation outside the 65 DNL contour. Dear Port Authority Noise Department staff: can we put that on the agenda for the October TAC meetings?
We’ve come some distance from the time when we used to write a letter to Mr. Huerta and start a pool on which year he would answer it. FAA management has heard us and our elected officials. The FAA is working on changing a long-established culture in response. We thank them for their efforts. We hope these initiatives will continue through the regime change that apparently will be coming to the FAA within 6 months.
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A TALE OF TWO STATES — continued
Last month, I attached a letter from Governor Hogan of Maryland to the FAA about PBN (NextGen) routes over Montgomery County, Maryland. BWI (Baltimore) Airport has a new, high-functioning professional aviation roundtable that was formed in 3 months, without any infighting. Their bylaws don’t favor a small group of people at the expense of the rest of their community. Its leaders know something about aviation and are able to work flexibly and productively with all stakeholders. They generate creative ideas without getting bogged down in minutiae, egos and agendas. In other words, they’ve been getting stuff done.
I am attaching a copy of the letter FAA Administrator Michael Huerta wrote in response to the Governor of Maryland. Some of what he writes is specific to the BWI community, some is more broadly applicable.
I admire what Maryland’s governor has done for his constituents in just a few months. Here in New York, QQS is still waiting to have a conversation with a representative of Gov. Cuomo, who has never given us the name of a contract person or initiated any discussions with us.
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FAA REAUTHORIZATION UPDATE
No news yet on what is happening with the FAA Reauthorization Act, which is supposed to be enacted no later than September 30th. In the last newsletter, we attached our proposed amendments to the Act. Many of the QQS proposals have been presented formally by members of the Quiet Skies Caucus. Now we’ll see what we can reasonably get into the legislation.
There’s one aspect of the FAA Reauthorization Act that I have not written about yet. That is the proposal to privatize Air Traffic Control.
There is a big push on by the airlines, big financiers and the aviation-related unions to establish a not-for-profit corporation to run the air traffic control operation that has always been run by the FAA. My understanding is that current air traffic controllers would become employees of the new corporation.
This idea was brought to us by, among others, Representative Bill Shuster, Republican of Pennsylvania and the chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. You may recall that Mr. Shuster, the House aviation czar, is literally in bed with the airlines: his live-in girlfriend is the chief lobbyist for Airlines 4 America. There are lovely photos on the internet of Rep. Shuster, his girlfriend and airline executives at fancy dinners. Evidently, the House of Representatives doesn’t think that’s an ethical problem.
At a press conference in June, President Trump said the privatization plan would cost taxpayers nothing. Actually, we would most likely end up paying more for air traffic control run by a private corporation than under the FAA The money professionals who would finance the corporation will have to be paid back somehow. Our grandchildren may still be paying back the loans while the boosters of the plan got large tax breaks. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office just issued an interim report concluding that the costs of transferring control of our airspace to the private sector may not be worthwhile. https://www.cbo.gov/system/
files/115th-congress-2017- 2018/costestimate/hr2997.pdf. I got an email from Rep. Shuster’s office the other day, telling me that the CBO report is “bogus.”
Proponents of the private corporation say it will make air traffic control safer and more efficient It’s hard to see how it would be safer because all the same people will be working with all the same equipment. As for efficiency, the airlines keep coming up with efficiency claims but never back them up with data. We’ve heard over and over, for example, that LGA produces all the delays in U.S. air traffic. But when I asked the head of public relations at Airlines 4 America last year to back up her claims with facts, all we got was a deafening silence. And who will be accountable to the public when the airlines take over direct control of our national airspace?
This doesn’t seem like a good deal for us. But there’s a very good chance that privatization of air traffic control will be enacted next month by the majority in Congress..
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For a long time, many of us were making noise complaints to the Port Authority noise complaint system. Some of you still do, but I don’t blame the rest of you for giving up. It seemed pretty pointless
However, now is the time to start again. Rep. Grace Meng recently asked us to make noise complaints a focus for our members.
The FAA is paying more attention to noise complaints. It looks as though the agency may be coming up with a new noise complaint website. They are trying to find new metrics to measure noise better. We are asking them to change and disperse routes. They need the noise complaint information, especially information about times and locations.
So don’t be shy. Tell your neighbors. Give out flyers and post them in your neighborhood (but legally please, not on public property and only with permission on private property). I have attached a flyer you can print out. Some people also give out business cards they’ve had made up with the noise complaint website and phone number.
Let’s do a 3-month noise complaint blitz and then see what the numbers say. Which neighborhood will log the most complaints? We’ll find out.
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During the last week of July, the noise on the TNNIS route was constant and unbearable. At the end of 4 days of non-stop flights I asked the Port Authority for data.
The PA and FAA did a lot of work to answer our information request. QQS Vice President Brian Will took a look at the data and highlighted three areas of concern. Here is what he found:
Data acquired from the Port Authority by Queens Quiet Skies shows several concerning trends in aviation traffic. The time-frame requested was between July 26th, 2017 and July 29th, 2017. During this time frame the TNNIS Climb was used on a near constant basis. Our concerns are detailed here:
- The document entitled “hourly readings” shows a negligible difference between hazardous noise in downtown Flushing and hazardous noise in northeast Bayside, some miles away. The LFRANKLN noise monitor in downtown Flushing averaged about 60 decibels per plane, per day. The L205B noise monitor near Bay Terrace averaged 58 decibels per plane, per day. Both monitors are registering well above the European standard of hazardous noise. This raises questions as to why the DNL system that the FAA favors continues to be used. The FAA DNL contours currently encompass downtown Flushing (and the LFRANKLN monitor as within the 60 dbDNL contour), while the Bay Terrace monitor (L205B) is considered outside of the 55 dbDNL contour. Neither areas, though exposed to noise well above the European standard for hazardous noise are incorporated in FAA planes for noise abatement or noise mitigation.
- Runway 13 was used nearly 97% of the time during this 3 day period. Other FOIA requests obtained by Queens Quiet Skies show a jump in usage of this runway for departure by 50% since 2002. The FAA considers wind to be the determining factor in runway arrivals choices, but not departures. It is considered more operationally efficient for LGA to depart on runway 13 because planes clear the runway intersection more quickly. The spike in usage of this runway has coincided with the initiation of the TNNIS Climb, a route that scrapes some 300,000 people at low altitudes before spiraling over Long Island Sound. Prior to this, TNNIS (or its predecessor, the Flushing Climb) had been used only during US Open tournaments for two weeks out of the year. In the 75 years prior to TNNIS, the FAA used noise abatement route and utilized noise compatible areas (like the East River and Flushing Meadows). LGA has other route and runway option with the wind conditions listed in the “weather data” document. These options can be found in the LGA standard operating procedure – a safety guidelines rule book that air traffic controllers often overlook in favor of operational efficiency. Simply put, they want to pump out planes as fast and as closely spaced as possible, though there has been no significant reduction in delays since TNNIS was implemented. Nor has there been a significant reduction in delays since runway 13 became the mainstay runway for departures.
- Noise events exceeding 65 dB were fairly uniform for every noise monitor under the TNNIS route, from Flushing to Bay Terrace. . For all the monitors under the TNNIS route combined, there were a total of 3,912 noise events that exceeded that 65 dB FAA standard for hazardous noise. The LFRANKLN noise monitor in downtown Flushing alone experienced 705 noise events exceeding 65 dB over this 4 day period, though this area is still considered outside of the 65 DNL noise contour and not eligible for mitigation and abatement funds.
Thanks to Brian, who does so much good work for Queens Quiet Skies. I hope you will notice how often runway 13 is being used for departures at LGA. And, too, that noise levels are essentially the same on these PBN routes from Flushing to Bayside and beyond. That’s a new effect of precision navigation; that is, noise levels are high uniformly across large areas of the community, not just in the neighborhoods immediately surrounding airports. That should be food for thought for anyone who is still living in the 20th century.
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Brian Will asked me to thank all the hosts of our noise monitors in northern Queens. It’s a QQS policy not to reveal the locations of the noise monitors or the identities of the people and organizations who host them. We very much appreciate the time and effort you take, and the fact that you lend your property for a use that benefits the community.
I also want to thank AM Ed Braunstein, who has been very helpful to QQS in supporting recent information requests and inquiries.
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LGA PART 150 TECHNICAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE MEETING NOTES
The notes of the June 22, 2017 TAC meeting have been posted on the project website (http://panynjpart150.com/LGA_
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Please make noise complaints and ask your neighbors to do the same. We are in this fight for the long haul. I’ll let you know as soon as I hear something about the FAA Reauthorization Act. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the rest of the summer.