GAO says FAA needs better noise impact metrics

Photo credit: Matheus Cenali from Pexels

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

The GAO has found that metrics employed by the FAA to assess noise impacts on residents subjected to overhead flights “does not provide a clear picture of the flight activity or associated noise levels at a given location.” This is not surprising to the communities who have said this about the FAA metrics for years. The FAA’s use of averages to indicate sound levels in communities around the country does not give much weight to the flight that can awaken people daily at 5:45 am in the morning. Furthermore, while the FAA noted that it has reached out to communities to discuss their noise concerns, the GAO found that communities they contacted “were frustrated and unclear as to how to productively engage with the FAA to address noise concerns.

Thus, the GAO recommended that the FAA seek out appropriate supplemental noise metrics to assess noise impacts and that the FAA convey more clearly to airports and communities “on what communities can expect from the FAA, including the technical assistance FAA can provide.”

The GAO report concludes that the agency will provide updated information on any actions the FAA takes with respect to its recommendations. The recommendation section ends with the following: “FAA concurs with the recommendations.”

Question: Since the criticisms and recommendations are in line with the criticisms and recommendations that the FAA has heard from impacted communities, their public representatives and airport noise researchers for many years, why has it taken so long for the FAA to finally concur with the recommendations in this report? More Importantly, agreement does not necessarily translate into immediate action.

It is fine that the GAO will provide updated information regarding recommendations. But communities affected by aircraft noise do not want future “updated information” regarding recommendations, they want actions NOW.

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