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Volusia County, FL Airports Face Increasing Noise Complaints

Airports Working To Be Good Neighbors In Busy Flight Training Area

As the home to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and several GA airport, flight training in Volusia County, FL, is a $1.2 billion business. But to some people living near the airports, students practicing touch-and-goes and engaging in other flight training is a reason to complain about the noise generated by the airplanes.

It's a fairly common problem almost anywhere there is an airport near a residential neighborhood. The Daytona Beach (FL) News Journal quotes one resident who lives near  New Smyrna Beach Municipal Airport just south of Daytona as describing the noise as "horrendous. You can't eat, you can't sleep, you can't have a conversation," said Regina Leibowitz.

The region is attractive to flight schools because of the proximity of ERAU and year-round good flying weather. Tracking the patterns of complaints at nearby airports, most come from those living directly beneath departure or approach corridors and traffic patterns. The paper reports that sometimes a flurry of complaints will come in when flight patterns change due special circumstances like runway construction and disappear when traffic returns to normal, as happened in Daytona Beach. Ormond Beach Municipal Airport manager Steve Lichliter said the implementation of voluntary noise abatement procedures resulted in a marked decrease in the number of complaints. But some local residents say they have simply given up complaining because the FAA would only allow for voluntary programs, and there was "nothing the city can do."

The largest volume of complaints comes from residents around New Smyrna beach airport, which city officials say has "gone to a lot of trouble" to mitigate noise in the area. The city completed a noise study in 2009, and immediately implemented many of its recommendations while waiting for the FAA's official approval. Still, some residents say that it's not any individual airplane which causes a problem, but that the number of flights makes the noise "constant." New Smyrna Beach airport board chairman Alan Norris said that the airport should ask students to limit their touch-and-goes to no more than four per session, rather than the eight that is currently requested. Other voluntary noise abatement guidelines at New Smyrna Beach include no touch and go operations between 5:00 pm and 8:00 am, no repetitive flight training operations at the airport between 10:00 pm and 7:00 am, no repetitive flight training operations on Sundays and national holidays, and no engine maintenance run-ups between 10:00 pm and 8:00 am.

ERAU, which has a $500 million economic impact in the region, has reduced its fleet of aircraft from 90 to 70 and increased simulator use. But instructors say while sims are a good tool, they are not a complete substitute for actually flying an airplane. The school is also conducting studies with an experimental aircraft on a variety of noise-reduction technologies, but those would require FAA approval before being installed on any of its aircraft.

FMI: www.cityofnsb.com/index.aspx?nid=65, www.erau.edu 

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