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Mon, Apr 14, 2003

Mixed Reviews on Tracking Flights Over The 'Net

Is Boca Raton's Flight Monitoring System Lowering Noise Complaints?

Boca Raton (FL) Airport's new internet flight tracking system, designed to make it easier to identify aircraft making too much noise over town, is getting mixed reviews eight months after it was installed.

The system, on the airport's web site since September, can track 50 airplanes at a time in an 80-mile radius from Miami to West Palm Beach.

Here's the idea. You surf on over to The Boca Raton Airport homepage www.bocaratonairport.com and click on Flight Tracks near the top. That way, you can identify an especially noisy aircraft by tail number, determine its altitude, where it came from and where it's going. Oh, yeah, there's an hour's delay for security reasons.

Joseph Yucht is in heaven with the new web site. "This is like a toy for me," he says. Yucht, 73 is a member of the airport's Noise Abatement Committee. The committee uses the flight tracking system to identify noisy airplanes and report them to the FAA.

Boca Raton Airport spends $1,000 a month on the system. But is it worth the money?

Paradox: More Tracking, Fewer Complaints

Rather than generating more complaints, there have actually been fewer since the system was installed eight months ago. There are between 200 and 300 flight operations every day at Boca Raton. In January, there were 8,389 takeoffs and landings. A total of 37 people called in 88 complaints about the noise. That's fewer people making fewer complains when compared to January 2002, when there were 8,086 takeoffs and landings, and 54 callers reported noise issues 383 times, according to airport officials.

"Some people call more repetitively," said Russ Buck, noise abatement administrator at Boca Raton Airport. "This is educational; people can see how flights move, and noise calls have decreased since we implemented the system."

It's Working, But...

Is it sophisticated enough? That's the question Rob DuKate wants answered. His neighborhood is smack in the middle of the primary approach to Boca Raton Airpor. DuKate says the internet flight tracking system is working, but he's not completely satisfied.

"We are 10 years behind the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, where their turn at I-95 and the industrial corridor is tighter, yet we are getting much lower compliance, so I would like to see a more improved integrated system here as soon as possible," said DuKate. "There is no pilot accountability at the present time and we have a lack of coordinated technology to show them."

Ah, but there is hope. A permanent noise-monitoring system, costing about $800,000, should be operational in about one year, Buck says.

But that's not good enough for DuKate. His biggest worry is that a second fixed-base operator, like Boca Aviation, will open for business as planned - before the new system is implemented. "More jet charter operators will move in here, and although there will be competition, there will now be environmental concerns, as well," he said.

FMI: www.bocaratonairport.com

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