Table Mesa Airport Noise, Denver Metroplex Airspace Optimization
& FAA’s NextGen
Collaborative Dialogue Aimed at Defining Win/Win Alternatives
is the Most Effective Approach
Boulder Municipal Airport’s manager Tim Head says the Federal Aviation Administration is “very enthusiastically” going to listen to citizen complaints regarding noise from airplanes flying over south Boulder/Table Mesa on their way to and from Denver International Airport. The Municipal Airport manager is quoted as saying that “they’re very aware of our concerns.” The FAA will hold a public meeting at 5:30 p.m. April 17 at the Boulder Public Library.
The FAA is in the midst of a major redesign project of its airspace around the nations’ airports; the purpose is to implement the technology of NextGen which is designed to reduce greenhouse gases/burn less fuel and fly more efficiently. The good news is that these new tracks are flown more precisely and the bad is these routes concentrate the noise under the new less dispersed flight paths.
The experience of Table Mesa is not unique; citizens around the country are complaining about the same phenomena. The dialogue between the affected citizens and the FAA has been difficult. The FAA representatives at these meetings are limited in their ability to address individual issues because of the geographic scope and complexity of the Metroplex analyses.
The priorities of the ATC specialists administering the studies tend to be safety 1st, efficiency 2nd and environmental impacts 3rd. Noise is just one of many environmental factors considered. The enthusiasm to achieve positive gains in safety and efficiency are big NextGen priorities. This enthusiasm for better accuracy of aircraft location, more capacity, fuel and emissions savings and less time in flight coupled with dated noise policy are reducing the effectiveness of accurately predicting noise impacts and community annoyance. Communities are reacting to lower threshold noise impacts because the frequency of aircraft on narrower flight paths are creating annoyance levels that may not meet the thresholds established in the 1980’s but are likely meeting thresholds that should be addressed.
Projected Annual Benefits
Source: FAA — Denver Metroplex Study Team
$1.8 Million — Value of Fuel Savings
0.6 Million Gallons — Fuel Savings
5.4 Thousand Metric Tons — Carbon Savings
These are annual benefits expected to accrue upon completion of the NextGen near-term procedural improvements implemented by the FAA’s Metroplex program. They are based on the FAA’s preliminary assessment of proposed airspace improvements compared to operations in a year before any improvements were made. The value of the projected fuel savings is based on a $2.85 per gallon rate. The data estimates are current as of July 2015.
Preliminary evaluation of the implementation of RNAV PBN for Denver triggered an Environmental Assessment. So when the agency representatives come to the Boulder Library, the community should utilize the NextGen public input process to encourage the FAA to work with them to optimize the RNAV PBN procedures to address noise concerns.
What may help engage the FAA is actual data; information like:
- Quantify the actual before and after impacts to the community.
- Comparison of modeled noise impact and estimated population impacts under RNAV PBN flight paths in 2013 and 2016.
- Analysis of impacts to noise sensitive facilities (schools, hospitals etc.).
- Comparison of overflights under RNAV PBN flight paths in 2013 and 2016 and altitude of those overflights.
- Be aware that the Table Mesa community is about 40 miles from Denver International. Because of the elevation of aircraft operating this far from the airport, the noise impacts may not meet thresholds considered significant by the FAA under current regulations. However, the FAA is in a process of reevaluating current noise policies.
The Table Mesa-FAA process is truly open, but competing factors in the FAA process require aggressive representation by communities to positively influence outcomes. The most effective approach is a collaborative dialogue that includes the communities affected, the Airport and the FAA aimed at defining win/win/win alternatives to achieve NextGen efficiencies while fairly balancing noise impacts. To be effective this process should start before the FAA public meetings.