Airplanes, helicopters far more annoying than other sources of noise

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

In responding to an Federal Aviation Administration’s study that found airplanes and helicopters are “far more annoying than other sources” of noise, Congressman Thomas Suozzi of New York said the FAA survey “tells us what we already knew loud and clear – our communities are ravaged by aircraft noise.” Suozzi was joined by a group of House lawmakers representing districts where aircraft noise has been a continuous problem for residents, who added that “FAA measures to gauge the effects of aircraft noise have outlived their usefulness.” Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton of D.C. noted that the FAA’s failure to reduce and mitigate noise “shows a lack of willingness to make the necessary improvements.” And Attorney General Karl A Racine of D.C. reminded us that “decades of research has shown that exposure to noise can interfere with children’s ability to learn and harm human health.”

The FAA survey that began in 2015 and was reported on in 2021 focused on one impact of aircraft noise – annoyance. While we recognized that noise, including aircraft noise, was far more than annoying six years ago and could be considered hazardous to mental and physical health and well being, the FAA 2021 survey still addresses aircraft noise as annoying even though we have even stronger data linking noise to adverse health effects. The reactions of the public officials cited above speak to how unimportant and useless the FAA survey is. The report’s focus on noise as an annoyance and its reliance on outdated sound level criteria to determine the impacts of aircraft noise should be seen as adding insult to injury to the communities that have been “ravaged by aircraft noise.”

The FAA is asking for public to comment on its report. I will guess that many of the comments will demand that the FAA recognize noise as a health hazard and many will also ask for policies and actions to ameliorate the aircraft noise problem now. Considering that the FAA is still viewing noise as an annoyance, rather than an adverse effect on health, how much confidence can those suffering from unhealthy aircraft noise intrusions have that their comments will result in actions to reduce aircraft noise? Or should they take the position of Representative Stephen F. Lynch of Massachusetts, who has been displeased with the FAA’s efforts to address aircraft noise but still hopes “that the report would lead to action.”

Share this article:

Article Categories

Search Articles