In 2018 Congress mandated FAA noise Ombudsmen
One Year Deadline to Implement
OMBUDSing the FAA Ombudsmen
In its infinite collective wisdom, the Congress included the following language in the H.R.302 – FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018115th Congress (2017-2018) [enacted 10/05/2018] :
With a statutory deadline of 1 year f,rom enactment it seemed appropriate to review the state of the FAA Noise Ombudsman Program; thus, the contrived verb of “OMBUDSing”.
[NOTE: that post cited an Administrative Conference Report on the position of Ombudsman. Many of those recommendation appear not to have been implemented as to the FAA’s program.]
It is no surprise that aviation noise is of intense interest to constituents. Equally, one will not be shocked to learn that Congress must provide a, maybe just “any”, solution to the voters. It is not abundantly clear what these internal noise interventionists can or should do when a member of the public complains about the discordant notes of aviation are registered. The decisions about where flight patterns will be placed involves a delicate balancing of multiple, highly technical considerations—safety, air traffic efficiency, reduction of aircraft fuel burn (environment) and minimizing the impact on the ground (environment). Simply noting that another citizen has objected to the track quantifies the vociferous annoyance does little to leverage change.
It has taken some time, but the FAA has made some progress in implementing § 180.
Statement of Daniel K. Elwell, Deputy Administrator
Before the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation; on Implementation of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018:
“The Act also required the FAA to designate a regional ombudsman for each of the FAA’s regions to act as a liaison with the public on issues of noise, pollution, and safety. The FAA elected to designate our community engagement officers as the regional ombudsman. They are in the process of being on-boarded and trained. The FAA will announce the individuals as soon as training is completed, which we anticipate will be in October of this year. The FAA is constantly working to foster better communication between the Agency and affected communities.”
II. Issued a statement of the Noise Ombudsman Policy
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Policy on Addressing Aircraft Noise Complaints and Inquiries from the Public (last updated 12/04/2019)
- Introduction In general, aircraft noise is a shared responsibility between airport authorities (hereinafter referred to as sponsors), airlines, state and local government, communities, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).This document presents the FAA’s policy on addressing aircraft noise complaints and inquiries from the public and describes elements of an initiative to improve the agency’s noise complaint process. The initiative includes a cooperative effort with partnering airport sponsors to improve coordination in responding to noise complaints and inquiries, thereby reducing uncertainty, increasing consistency, and better serving the public. The FAA does not use noise complaints, including the volume of noise complaints, to justify the need to alter current practices or alter existing procedures and routes.
- Policy As a matter of policy, the FAA seeks to efficiently and effectively respond to and address aircraft noise complaints and inquiries from the public in a clear, consistent, and repeatable manner that is responsive and applies the best use of FAA resources. In furtherance of this policy, the FAA is implementing an initiative to improve its noise complaint process. Elements of the initiative include:
a. Establishing regional FAA aircraft noise websites that address regional aircraft noise and community-related issues. The websites will also include information and links on where and how the public can submit aircraft noise complaints or inquiries.
b. Identifying specific information complaints and inquiries must contain for the FAA to understand the source, location, and nature of the noise issue, thereby improving the FAA’s ability to respond effectively and efficiently.
c. Utilizing a digital platform (e.g., FAA Noise Complaint and Inquiry System or FAA Noise Portal) to consistently record and track noise complaints and inquiries the FAA receives from the public.
d. Posting, at least annually, summaries of the numbers and types of noise complaints and inquiries FAA received by FAA region, on regional and national FAA websites. Information will be void of personally identifiable information (PII) such as names, email addresses, postal addresses, phones numbers, etc.
e. Utilizing the FAA Noise Ombudsman to address noise complaints and inquiries that are not resolved at the FAA Regional level per the decision of the FAA Regional Administrators’ Office.
F. Accepting and registering noise complaints and inquiries containing the necessary information that are submitted through the FAA Noise Portal, by postal mail, or by voice message, as described on the FAA’s regional and national aircraft noise websites.
g.Not accepting or registering noise complaints or inquiries from third party automated applications or devices. The use of these applications can lead to automated generation of high volumes of repeat complaints and inquiries, responding to which is inconsistent with the FAA’s policy of applying the best use of its resources.
See U.S. Department of Transportation, Aviation Noise Abatement Policy (November 18, 1976), available at [https://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/policy_guidance/envir_policy/media/FAA1976NoisePolicy.pdf].
h. Providing timely responses to aircraft noise complaints and inquiries.
i. Not responding to the same general complaint or inquiry from the same individual more than once. The “same general complaint or inquiry” is one that does not differ in general principal from a previous complaint, and that would generate the same FAA response.
k. Requiring the public to check a required field (yes or no) in the Noise Portal to indicate whether they want to receive a response from the FAA. Not responding to complaints or inquiries that are of an abusive or threatening nature or contain obscene language (condemning and offensive nature exhibiting no clear desire for a response). As appropriate, such complaints or inquiries may be referred to appropriate security and/or law enforcement authorities.
l. Posting, and updating as necessary, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and answers on the FAA regional and national aircraft noise websites to inform and educate the public.
m. Facilitating the public’s understanding of the relevant aircraft noise-related issues when responding to noise complaints and inquiries by providing, in plain and clear language, appropriate information about relevant FAA regulations, policies, and guidance; measures to address the aircraft noise of concern; and circumstances that could lead to implementation of additional measures.
n. Coordinating with partnering airport sponsors to share applicable noise complaint/inquiry data and identify on the regional aircraft noise websites the operator’s points of contact for public noise complaints and inquiries.
o. Requiring inquiries requesting changes in FAA operations or procedures for noise purposes in the vicinity of an airport to be submitted to the airport sponsor and airport-sanctioned community roundtable (if one exists).
p. Striving for consistency and avoiding duplication with airport sponsor responses to aircraft noise complaints or inquiries.
q. Continually monitoring and improving the FAA’s overall performance in an efficient and effective manner.
3. Policy Review The FAA will periodically review and update this policy as appropriate.
⇒ Ombudsing this statement versus apparent performance
- The language of g, I, (to a degree j ) and k are expressed in the negative; explaining in detail what the FAA will reject. Hardly terms conducive to encouraging comments from the public. Most notably, the mentioning of the possibility of criminal referral for “abusive…threatening…obscene…condemning…offensive” comments.” These words might deter comments from the intended audience; hardly the tone for an Ombudsman serving the public.
- Point d indicates that there will be, at least annually, a summary of the numbers and types of noise complaints by region and nationally. If such reports have been made, the FAA search did not disclose one.
- Point l instructs that a useful FAQ page be posted
- Point 0 was intended to give those complaining some sense of their impact by seeing their problem delivered to the sponsor or some community roundtable. If there have been such communications the FAA search function did not identify them.
- The FAA website includes a page on Noise and a separate page on Noise Complaints. Both of which were amended in the last two months. The OMBUDSing review gives a passing grade.
III. The National and Regional Ombudsmen designated:
a. The second National Ombudsman is Christopher J. Rocheleau Deputy Assistant Administrator for Policy, International Affairs, and Environment. He has the experience and position to be effective.
b. Nine Regional Ombudsmen were recently announced.
FAA’s Alaskan Region Administration serves the geographic boundaries of the State of Alaska. We provide information on community involvement and aircraft noise issues, including how to submit a noise complaint or inquiry.
For the states the Central Region Administration serves, we provide information on community involvement and aircraft noise issues, including how to submit a noise complaint or inquiry.
For the states served by the Eastern Region Administration, we provide information on community involvement and aircraft noise issues, including how to submit a noise complaint or inquiry.
For the states the Great Lakes Region Administration serves, we provide information on community involvement and aircraft noise issues, including how to submit a noise complaint or inquiry.
For the states the New England Region Administration serves, we provide information on community involvement and aircraft noise issues, including how to submit a noise complaint or inquiry.
We provide information on community involvement and aircraft noise issues, including how to submit a noise complaint or inquiry, for the states of the Northwest Mountain Region.
For the states and territories the Southern Region Administration serves, we provide information on community involvement and aircraft noise issues, including how to submit a noise complaint or inquiry.
For the states the Southwest Region Administration serves, we provide information on community involvement and aircraft noise issues, including how to submit a noise complaint or inquiry.
For the states and territories the Western-Pacific Region Administration serves, we provide information on community involvement and aircraft noise issues, including how to submit a noise complaint or inquiry.
⇒Without any names, it is hard to recognize these Ombudsmen’s ability to impact resolution of noise disputes.
It may be too early to opine on the effectiveness of Congress’ Ombudsman solution and it is premature (yes, two years, but the most recent FAA actions may be useful) to judge the FAA’s implementation. What is clear is that the communications among the FAA, the airport/sponsors and the community has had some rough patches. Translating the obtuse technicalities of AT design to plain language is a MAJOR PROBLEM.
 My English teacher, from his grave, is castigating me to making a noun into a verb, an abuse of this language. of which he was so dedicated.
Share this article: