NextGen Noise: RNP’s concentrated IMPACT may justify substantive change in FAA policies under a proper study

faa nextgen airport noise
Share this article: Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinFacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedin

Aviation noise is being heard and objected to in higher volumes than in the past. It is hard to quantify the level of negative reactions in the metrics of engineering measurement, but the qualitative response is hard to ignore.

→ Where are the complaints being registered? As evidenced by the below two articles and numerous other reports, citizens in

  • Boston,
  • Charlotte,
  • Chicago,
  • New York,
  • Phoenix,
  • San Diego,
  • San Francisco,
  • Seattle
  • Washington, DC and
  • Other places

are vociferously making their objections known.

→ What do these cities have in common? As shown by the FAA website on NextGen, all of these airports have implemented NextGen procedures.

airport noise nextgen

→ What can be gleaned from looking at these noise patterns? There is both good news and bad news.

  • The environment on a macro basis is better off; because the generalized area of impact is significantly decreased.

  • There is also BAD NEWS on a micro basis; in that the precision of the RNP technology and implementation CONCENTRATES THE NOISE IN A SMALLER AREA. The residents in these areas may be experiencing substantial increases over their historic noise levels (+10 points on the scale equals a doubling of the loudness). Further, the RNP addition to the noise may not reach the FAA’s long standing threshold of 65 dBA; so the NEPA review may find that this change does not preclude the implementation. What sets the DNL “energy average” apart from a mathematical average is that for every increase of 10 dBA in a noise level, the energy is increased by a factor of 10. For example, an event of 70 dBA contains 10 times the energy of an event of 60 dBA or one hundred times the energy of an event of 50 dBA.

aircraft noise nextgen


aircraft noise nextgen

So the people living under these new HIGH TECH, GREENER flight patterns are told at the end of the FAA study that there will be “no significant impact,” a term of NEPA art, which certainly infuriate the affected citizens.

→ What has Congress conjured up to address this situation? The elected representatives have proposed reopening the ATC review process; see FAA Community Accountability Act of 2015 (FCAA). First, it should be noted that Congress recently reduced the review requirement for the FAA in implementing NextGen flight patterns (H.R.658 — 112th Congress (2011-2012), the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FMRA)). There is little likelihood that there will be a different outcome under an enacted FCAA by

  • ordering the FAA to RECONSIDER its previous determination
  • under the FCAA rubric, the process would entail a comparison of the original efficient, safe architecture vs. an alternative designed without the necessary expertise
  • under the original NEPA standard,
  • adding an ombudsman,
  • placing the airport explicitly in the process and
  • little else.

What the Congress has failed to realize is that the average citizen noise group needs significant resources to do anything other than say NO to the FAA RNP proposal. They need more than a new process; they need technical expertise to offer acceptable options.

→ What is the FAA doing? In a March 27, 2015 letter from Administrator Huerta to a coalition of aviation associations, he announced an “ambitious project to update the scientific evidence of the relationship between aircraft noise exposure and its impact on communities around airports in today’s context of quieter aircraft, but with more aircraft operations than in the 1980s and 1990s and heightened environment awareness.” The letter noted that the study was specifically in response to implementation of PBN tracks. The precise nature of the FAA studied was outlined in the Administrator’s letter:

aircraft noise nextgen

The data from such a loosely defined and gathered study does not appear to determine the precise impacts of the RNP concentrated procedures and hardly seems to be compelling enough to justify any changes in the FAA’s historic standards. {Rather tellingly, the letter invites replies NOT to the FAA technical environmental staff, but its Congressional relations office.}

→ What needs to be done?

  • The predicted noise levels of select Environmental Assessments (perhaps Phoenix) need to be verified by actual noise measurements within the new PBN flight corridors to determine why the reaction to noise impact is so much greater than the predicted noise impact.
  • If the predicted noise impact is found to be accurate through physical noise measurements, then the threshold for significant impact needs to be evaluated and adjusted to account for factors such as aircraft operation frequency and differing community tolerance for noise.
  • As illustrated above the issue of frequency may not have a significant impact on the DNL value but certainly appears to be having an impact on community tolerance of noise. The current FAA threshold of significance (1.5 Db at 65 DNL and above) does not account for the significant increase in frequency that occurs under the new PBN corridors.

While this noise assessment may take longer than the FAA’s phone survey of citizen perceptions, the results of a technical review are FAR MORE LIKELY TO JUSTIFY A SIGNIFICANT CHANGE IN POLICY.


ARTICLE: Tired Of Noisy Days And Nights, South Shore Residents Challenge FAA

ARTICLE: FAA’s NextGen Noise Problem is Stirring Up Lots of Activism in the NYC Area

Share this article: Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinFacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedin

22 Comments on "NextGen Noise: RNP’s concentrated IMPACT may justify substantive change in FAA policies under a proper study"

  1. Sidney Krimsky, P.E. | January 7, 2016 at 11:55 pm | Reply

    Decibels = 10 X base ten log of the power ratio, not energy. Noise is related to watts per square centimeters. It is power not energy. Power X time = energy. a 3 dB increase means a doubling of the power. The reference power for air is 10E-16 watts per square centimeter. That is the minimum threshold for hearing.

  2. and by the time all of these studies are done and complete we will all be dead and buried. Common sense tells me, more flights at lower altitudes over densely populated neighborhoods would be noise pollution, and residents will be affected!
    we don’t need studies that will take years for this. We already know the noise is bad, otherwise no one would be complaining.
    Shame on congress for allowing the FAA to re direct air traffic over our homes, shame on them.
    Shame on our Senators for doing nothing regarding this issue
    Shame our President for allowing this.

  3. Thank you for the very insightful summary. I have been trying to research myself, and have spent perhaps hundreds of hours to get this succinct accounting.

  4. In the DC Metroplex, the NEPA Environmental Assessment falsely claimed there would be no significant changes to flight paths under 3000′ AGL. It was evaluated and a FONSI was granted based on that false claim. The implemented Nextgen flight paths had substantial changes under 3000′ AGL, and resulted in heavy, low altitude air traffic outside the long-established 65 DNL boundary at BWI.

  5. peter nicholson | August 14, 2016 at 1:31 pm | Reply

    Here is a qualitative description of what we endure:

    1. Multiple aircraft dive across the Potomac from Virginia to join a low altitude (1500-2500 Ft) procession extending far south into Maryland. This procession is packed to a time spacing approaching once a minute using a NEXTGEN application.
    2. The downward descent from Virginia (initially 4000 to 6000 Ft) turning onto this procession produces a scream and howl not unlike that many Veterans recall from wartime experiences.
    3. Further, the unusually close proximity of jet engines (no ‘whisper’ in those jets), expose other characteristics of noise not sensed at greater ranges. Close-in emissions consist of high frequency disruptions as well a doubling in loudness for every 1000 Ft decrease in altitude.
    4. This intrusion into our otherwise quiet residential life continues late into the night, regularly far beyond curfew hours, and even with no visual respite aircraft landing lights then strobe our bedroom windows.

  6. Surely it is time the industry took on board this issue. We in the Uk are suffering along with all of you in the USA. I specifically am concerned with Next Gen (PBN) being introduced at London Gatwick. Does it really need your Senators our MP’s to sort out this issue. Wake up please the industry. A computer created this problem surely a computer can find a solution.

  7. Brendan Jackson | October 16, 2016 at 7:38 pm | Reply

    I recently moved to a new neighborhood in metro Atlanta (inside the perimeter and about 10 miles from ATL airport) largely for a quieter spot on a dead-end street. It was blissfully quiet for a month or two and then the planes started roaring. Every minute we hear another plane ascending overhead… rarely does the noise from the last plane dissipate before the noise from a new one begins. Given our substantial distance from the airport the actual decibel level isn’t terrible, usually high 50s, but the frequency is what kills me. There’s never quiet until after midnight. Every departing flight going north seems to pass about 500 yards east of us. I couldn’t figure it out until I read about NextGen. I don’t see Atlanta on the list of cities with complaints, but rest assured, it’s a problem here. I’d love to see a high-quality map of NextGen flight paths for Atlanta. Any idea where I can find one?

  8. I had a noise study done as a result of FAA NextGen traffic greatly increasing noise at my residence. I felt the study was “doctored” as the flight patterns mysteriously changed to lessen noise during the 2 1/2 weeks when the noise recorders were at my property and the noise level and increased flights returned after the study equipment was removed from my property.

    NextGen is consolidating the air traffic to arbitrary flight corridors and it is really off the charts for the homes near their arbitrarily selected flight corridors.

    On top of that, NextGen allows the airlines to get more flights as the spacing between takeoffs and landings can be reduced so their is an increase in flights.

  9. I forgot the mention. The seemingly “doctored” noise study was coordinated by the BWI Airport Noise Abatement office. It used to be that flights were dispersed so the noise wasn’t all the time for residences that are at least 3 miles from the airport.

    NextGen doesn’t even adhere to it’s own goals as flights departing from BWI towards Severna Park that are destined for Westerly destinations make a sharp 180 deg turn and then that take a sharp 90 deg. turn West and all of the traffic passes over the Rt. 100/ I-95 intersection and goes over Rt. 100 even though minutes earlier the flight was far south near Severna Park.

  10. The FAA, the media, and our political officials seem to think that aircraft noise is a “given” when you purchase a home in a community near an airport. What their missing is that homes/communities nowhere near an airport have suddenly become exposed to the noise as a result of the NextGen system rerouting flight paths and flying the jets at low altitudes.

    My community in Arnold, Maryland (13 plus nautical miles/20 plus driving miles) NEVER heard aircraft noise prior to the NextGen system. Since BWI implement the NextGen system, the Magothy River has converted into a major flight path, which is the equivalent to a major highway. Our waterfront and surrounding community is bombarded with nonstop, loud roaring noise and vibrations that shake your home. The noise disturbs your peace early morning and late at night, every day with flight intervals every 6-8 minutes at decibels well above 65. The flights down the Magothy River and over our community are flying at altitudes between 2,100- 2,700 feet (documented at BWI) which are very low considering our location 13 plus nautical miles from the airport. Can the FAA take airspace over peaceful communities, whose homeowners chose NOT TO LIVE near an airport, and convert the community into a “high impact noise zone” without regard to the detrimental effects on the air quality, the property values, and the health and wellbeing of the people?

    We don’t need a two-year Environmental Impact Study. The “NextGen” committee can come to my home and experience the noise, the vibrations, and the pollution their new and “so called” more efficient system has created. I’m betting, that if one of the politicians or CEO’s affiliated with the NextGen system, suddenly had flight paths redirected over their home (far from a major airport), had jets flying at low altitudes, and noise levels well above 65 decibels all hours of day/night, would have acted quickly to trash the NextGen system.

    The FAA needs a watchdog! It is apparent that the FAA has placed profits and so-called, “efficiency “ over the citizens who help pay their salaries. Maybe legislation should be introduced to require the profits, resulting from NextGen, be used to quiet jet engine noise. Calling the FAA Noise Ombudsman is a joke. The mailbox has been full for two years and no one can leave a message. Our elected politicians need to take the necessary steps to protect communities from the NextGen system. The Noise Abatement Program can’t sound proof every home within a 25-mile radius of the airport. Maybe the easiest solution would be to rollback to the original flight paths.

    • Kimberly,
      Your Senator Benjamin Cardin was a huge proponent of FAA NextGen (go google it) and he supported entirely until it was approved. I have contacted Mr. Cardins office many times, via his website, via email, his Facebook/Twitter, via phone about the impacts on NextGen at BWI for which he supported, and he has yet to respond to my inquiry.

      Don’t vote for people like Mr. Cardin apparently is all you can do. He won’t even live up to his blatant mistake of being a strong supporter of FAA NextGen. The only beneficiaries of NextGen are the mult-billionaire $$ airline corporations.

  11. Mr. Benjamin Cardin was a strong supporter of the FAA NextGen bill and helped get it passed. Go Google it.

  12. DAVE JAENICKE | May 19, 2017 at 3:27 am | Reply

    Seatle,Wa – Our family is living in Roy,Wa where we have daily extreme noise, vibrations and engine “Howling” that is in addition to the Joint Base Lewis McCord base aircraft. We are sick to death about this and our home value has plummeted. The FAA and Maria Cantwell our Senator “sold us out” by supporting the real reason which is airline fuel saving changes to the Sea-Tac approach. The Port of Seattle folks are the most overpaid worthless bums that they are. Ignoring and not responding either. No public comments were advertised to us about the program. We just started hearing and seeing these planes one day.The real deal is the rich folks in the Cooper Point area around Olympia Washington love it as it has moved the noise elsewhere like over our home. All the complaining to the Port of Seattle is a joke. We get no responses back from our Pierce County representatives Becker and even Patty Murray. The FAA ombudsman will not take any personal calls. The ombudsman has workers that shield the complaints and will not give responses. The “NEW” approach “compresses” JBLM military base traffic lower as a result I see daily. Sometimes we see evasive actions by the military. It frightens us and scatters our livestock. The noise is unbearable and we have no choice, no say and the biggest offender of them all is Alaska Airlines. They have a distinctive “Howling” that occurs that is louder than the rest of the airlines. We hear helicopters, since we are in their approach and departure path, and these aircraft get their flight paths compressed lower as well. I tell you what’s going to happen the Air Force is going to scramble their jets someday and there “WILL BE” a mid air collision. This winter the JBLM military gets this bright idea hey..Lets put mobile missile launchers on our base to save money from having them in the desert of Yakima Wa. where they belong. We had to laugh as the Nisqually Tribe protested and what do you know “they won” after threatening the Army with moving their entire tribe to hotels (especially tribal children and elders)and billing the Army for the hotels and food for weeks. Of course the tribe won and had to move their rocket launchers back to eastern Washington. The idiots JBLM command got shot down like a bunch of clowns. One would care to view the you tube “Nisqually tribe JBLM missile test” The aircraft exhaust is contaminating the private water wells but we are saving the airlines money!! What a bunch of dumb asses! All these aircraft leak skydrol too. Wonder why people like us hate the government. and they think they are smart. More like bored to death.

  13. Charlotte NC here.

    The Nextgen flight paths and new extremely low altitudes have destroyed the upscale communities of Southpark, Myers Park, Eastover, Dilworth, and more. These residential communities NEVER had air traffic flying over them in the 14 years we have lived here. Charlotte Douglas airport (CLT) is 11 miles from our home and now from 6 am to 12 midnight 7 days a week we have over 600 planes flying from 2000′ to 3500′ over our homes every 70 to 80 seconds!
    Brent Cagle the director of CLT airport and his roundtable team including Stuart Hair are cowards and have gone into hiding as they recently selected citizens from every area NOT affected to participate in discussions regarding nextgen noise, well done gentlemen! You day of reckoning is coming. I promise.

    • CP, I live in NW Charlotte about 10 miles from the airport, and we’ve been bombarded with flights for the past year. It’s been in the past 3 months I’ve noticed they are flying lower. I was actually invited to the roundtable, but could not make the 2 meetings that have been held. I’ve reached out to Stuart Hair about the next one. As soon as I hear, I will come back and post a comment.

  14. Frustrated Hiker | July 25, 2017 at 9:46 am | Reply

    DENVER. FAA changed flight paths in preparation for Nextgen, the noise resulting from tighter paths combined with a large increase in flights has destroyed the wilderness experience over 103,500 acres of open space in Boulder CO. One flight path is directly overhead, technically within 100 horizontal feet, of my home. Before 2014, planes flew much further south over Rocky Flats which is now, theoretically, a wildlife refuge of 5000 acre. Today they fly over 20 times that amount of wildnerness and over the Indian Peaks Wilderness at the Continental Divide.

    We attended most of the Nextgen meetings and were told to wait until 2019. No federal agency should have the power to destroy the health and sanity of people and wildlife. Residents of Phoenix have been in court with the FAA since 2015, the FAA has done absolutely NOTHING to mitigate the noise caused by the new flight paths. Beyond pathetic. Where are our representatives when we need them? Dialing for dollars …..

  15. Mark Clark, Chair Citizen Noise Advisory Committee, PDX | July 31, 2017 at 5:24 pm | Reply

    Can’t quite figure out why some of you say aircraft are going to be flying lower then before PBN was implemented? I realize that airports will be concentrating flight paths into one per runway, but aircraft will be on a constant 3% downslope from miles out instead of the “dive and drive” approach used with current approaches. I support PBN, even though it will go right directly over my house, only much higher and quieter. We asked the Air National Guard to leave the “dive and drive” approach and it’s much quieter now using Overhead Continuous Decent Approach on visual landings. There are folks that complain they “see” them over their houses, but the freight trains going by is much louder.

    • Valley Stream | August 16, 2017 at 7:25 pm | Reply

      Seriously, Mark Clark? Do you honestly believe that when NextGen starts flying directly over your house, the planes are going to be “higher and quieter,” less disruptive than a freight train? Don’t make me laugh. Either someone is lying to you, or you are lying to everyone else. Either way, just wait. You’re about to be in for a huge and extremely unpleasant surprise.

  16. to Valley Stream you are the one that is being lied to and need to check your facts.

  17. Patreece Lanier | November 5, 2017 at 3:34 pm | Reply

    CP, I am on the Roundtable, and I live in Whitehall. If you know where that is( between I485 and Arrowood Rd), we are constantly bombarded with low flying early morning and late evening air traffic from departures and arrivals. A coward I am not. Our every 3rd Wednesday meetings are public at the CLT Bldg on Wilkinson Blvd @ 6pm. You are welcome to be an audience member.

  18. Valley Stream – Yes I know it will be quieter, PBN has been implemented here, only problem is it’s only being used 3% of the time and only during inclement weather. As chair and member of the Citizen Noise Advisory Committee for the Portland International Airport, we get the reports of all complaints and none of them come from commercial aircraft using this method of flight. I was on a returning flight last Sunday night where PBN was used during the landing and the only time the pilot used power was right at the final approach, yes it was raining hard. Each airport has it’s own unique set of parameters to the cause and effects of PBN and I understand the dynamics of what congress did to speed up NextGen, causing many outcries, which I fully support their noise complaints. Our airport and city staff no better than to “pass” on public input, which happened at Sky Harbor and many other airports. Our Noise committee has been in place since the 1980’s and is world renown. We were right in the middle of the entire NextGen PBN process, we learned first and drove the process to limit any new impact, driving to lesson noise over the entire path(s) then held public hearings after, then did an educational out reach to anyone that would hear us, you name it, we did all that we could to inform our citizens. However, 95% of the feedback we got was a big thank you! The remaining 5% if that, was from citizen’s that are never going to be happy and another very few that are against Military aircraft stationed at our airport and of course other transit military aircraft using this airport. There are 900 to 1 pleased to support our military, even more that love the sound and vision of freedom whom some run out to watch our F-15’s when they are using Overhead Continuous Decent Approach “OHCDA”, which is a variation of PBN. Yes, there are those that do not like OHCDA mainly because they don’t like “seeing” aircraft over their homes and we are listening and learning from them, as it’s still an on going process. In one of the publicly announced OHCDA demonstrations, we found a train going by was louder using calibrated sound equipment. I will also report there have been times where there are exceptions when learning pilots have used power to land, which is against the proper use of OHCDA.

  19. I live on an approach path for a top 20 US airport. One thing I’ve noticed with continuous descent is that the planes joining the path via the downwind leg often end up at a lower altitude than they should be based on a 3 degree descent angle. Perhaps there is a necessary reason for this but it seems like the starting point for their descent is often much earlier than it needs to be. I realize there may be some real-time adjustment in terms of when they make the turn, but they seem to prefer committing to their descent until they hit 2000-3000 ft and flying low the rest of the way rather than maintaining appropriately high altitudes.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.