FAA stuck in an aircraft noise rut

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

On Thursday, March 17th, the aviation subcommittee of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure held a hearing in which they questioned Federal Aviation Administration officials and a member of the Government Accountability Office about FAA efforts to reach out to communities to discuss efforts to reduce aircraft noise. This hearing included feedback from communities about proposed changes in flight patterns and how existing flight patterns have impacted on the noise experiences of residents. Heather Krause of the GAO spoke about the report her office issued last year that found that the FAA could do more to engage with communities and that suggested that the FAA reassess the existing noise metrics. The FAA spokesperson responded it would review its noise policy and it would improve its relationships with the Roundtables, the committees around the country with citizen representatives who inform the FAA representatives of citizen aviation concerns, especially the impacts of aircraft noise.

I listened to the subcommittee hearing on Zoom as did several of my colleagues who have been advocating for years to lessen the adverse impacts of aviation noise on health and well-being. To hear that the FAA would try to improve its outreach to communities affected by aircraft noise and that it would examine more closely the metrics used to assess aircraft noise impacts were statements that all of us have heard many times over the years. What we did not hear at this meeting was a discussion of the adverse impacts on mental and physical health brought about by aviation noise. Such a discussion would have given greater weight to the complaints of aircraft noise which were discussed.

Next month is International Noise Awareness Day and we will be celebrating the 27th anniversary of a day that was started at the Center for Hearing and Communication. Recognizing this day with articles in its Hearing Rehabilitation Journal in 2001 was one that I had written entitled “Aircraft Noise: The Ailment and The Treatment.” Do look at this article. You will see that the GAO had asked the FAA to examine whether the measurements the agency used to assess impacts were adequate and if their noise abatement programs were effective. Now, ask the following question: What’s changed?

The FAA is still being asked to determine whether it is doing enough to deal with the adverse impacts of aviation noise on the mental and physical health of hundreds of thousands of people. It is still allowed to answer that it will try to do better. Words, words, words. What about actions, actions, actions? My colleagues and I are still asking this of the FAA, the GAO and Congress.

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