Action speaks louder than words

Photo credit: Alex Pham

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies

“Action speaks louder than words” is a phrase that has been used for many years. However, it is not one that can be used to describe the recently passed FAA Reauthorization Bill regarding aviation noise. This bill, like others preceding it, authorizes the Federal Aviation Administration to engage with individuals whose health has been adversely impacted by aircraft noise. While President Joe Biden has praised the bill as “a big win for travelers,” it can only be seen as a loss for the aircraft-noise impacted residents who do not see concrete action in the bill that will reduce aircraft noise. In fact, as Anne Hollander, a Quiet Communities, Inc. board member pointed out, this bill will actually increase aircraft noise for residents living near the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport because it calls for adding ten daily long-haul flights at that airport over and above the 400+ daily flights to which communities there are already subjected.

In an article I wrote over 20 years ago titled “Aircraft Noise: The Ailment and Treatment,” I chose the acronym FAA to describe the physical and mental state of air travelers who experienced a large number of aircraft delays in the summer of 2000. These travelers coped with fatigue, aggravation and anger, or FAA. I added that these three words could also describe the feelings of residents who have to deal with aircraft noise each day. While President Biden’s words praising the FAA Reauthorization Bill may suggest that it will ameliorate the stress of air travel for passengers, I believe fatigue, aggravation and anger will continue to be appropriate words to describe the stress of residents exposed to aviation noise. 

As a psychologist, I certainly value dialogue on issues of concern but this dialogue should lead to actions that ameliorate problems. When I conducted my study nearly 50 years ago, I found that noisy elevated trains lowered children’s reading scores in classrooms exposed to this noise. I and other concerned residents then spoke with the Transit Authority and the Board of Education. These discussions led to actions that reduced the noise in the classrooms and the children’s reading scores improved. I was not asked to conduct further studies or surveys, as one study led to action.

Thus, I ask how many more studies do we need to confirm the existing findings that aircraft noise adversely affects mental and physical health? How many more discussions do residents need to have with representatives from their local airports and the FAA before actions are taken? Russell Train, a former administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, stated the following in a 1976 talk on aviation noise:

“We really know what needs to be done. We have simply lacked the will to do it. Let’s get on with the job.”

Unfortunately, his words ring even truer decades later in 2024. The ways are there; it is the political will that is lacking. To all of our readers – please send this post to your representatives in Congress.

Correction: The quote attributed to Anne Hollander was misstated.  The error has been corrected. 

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