NASA wants to know if air taxis will annoy you

A Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft over Japan. Photo credit: Marine Corps Cpl. Kyle Chan, U.S. Department of Defense.

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

“NASA Wants to Know if Air Taxis Will Annoy You,” is the title of this article in FLYING magazine.

According to writer John Gallagher, NASA plans to test the noise tolerance of those unfortunate enough to live in crowded cities with gridlocked traffic. These residents, from Los Angeles, New York City and Dallas, are more likely to see the biggest use of air taxis in the near future. Here in Los Angeles, it could be as soon as the 2028 Olympics.

According to this announcement in the federal register, NASA will use a psychoacoustic test it calls Varied Noise and Geographic Area Response Difference (VANGARD) to measure annoyance caused by advanced air mobility/urban air mobility (AAM/UAM) aircraft — the technical term for air taxis.

According to the Acoustical Society of America, psychoacoustics is the branch of acoustical science that deals with the psychological correlates of the physical parameters of acoustics. The VANGARD tests will be administered remotely over the internet, using subject’s computers and headphones or earbuds.

Despite incontrovertible scientific evidence that reveals the adverse effects of aviation noise, the Federal Aviation Administration continues to use “annoyance” as the definitive measure of the public’s response to aviation noise. As I stated in my recent talk at the University of California, Davis Aviation Noise & Emissions symposium, annoyance from aviation noise is not a minor problem. Each episode of aviation noise disrupts conversations, interrupts activities, disturbs sleep, and for those at work, decreases productivity.

For impacted communities, the effects of aviation noise extend to stress, anger, frustration and a sense of powerlessness. I also noted that the FAA allows Americans to be exposed to unsafe levels of aviation noise, as documented in my latest publication.

I’m not sure what air taxis will sound like, but I anticipate they will sound like drones on steroids. I have heard drones at weddings and when they’re used by our local police department. The buzz is quite annoying. That’s why drones are banned in our national parks, where they have damaged delicate natural and historical features and harassed wildlife. The FAA has also banned them in many locations.

To me, safety is a major concern. Air taxis use vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) technology, like that of the military’s V-22 Osprey. All Ospreys were recently grounded after yet another one crashed, this time in Japan. I see no reason why eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) technology would be any safer than that used by the military. To me, AAM/UAM aircraft are like electric Hindenburgs. You won’t catch me flying in one when the Olympics kick off here in Los Angeles.

I will submit comments to NASA about the planned VANGARD tests. If you have concerns about air taxi noise, I encourage you to do the same. The comment deadline is May 14, 2024.

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