Thursday, October 8, 2015

Resolving Air Traffic Noise Problem • Martha's Vineyard Airport (KMVY), Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts


Thursday, October 8, 2015 - 10:30am

I am cautiously optimistic that upcoming meetings with the Martha’s Vineyard airport commission will result in an acceptable resolution to the much-discussed airport noise situation, but in response to your Oct. 2 article and reader comments, I need to clarify a few points.

• My neighbors—from Vineyard Meadows Farms homes (there are 125 of us) and nearby communities — are requesting nothing more than for pilots to comply with well-established and FAA-approved safe noise abatement procedures for the Martha’s Vineyard Airport. These procedures include a clear directive (which appears in red multiple times throughout the document) to avoid residential areas. When pilots comply with the established procedures, we will consider the problem resolved. We’re not interested in closing the airport, canceling flights, or any actions that will impact the livelihood of Island residents, visitors, or businesses, as some readers incorrectly suggested.

• Mr. O’Connor, Cape Air chief pilot, as promised, urged his pilots to comply with the noise abatement procedures. There has been some improvement, and we appreciate his efforts on our behalf. This continuing problem may indeed be attributable to a few pilots who are disregarding the procedures on multiple flights each day.

• In the four weeks between August 29 (when the President left) and Sept. 25, I counted 26 Cape Air flights (plus other private flights as well) that flew directly over our community (inbound and outbound) at an unacceptably low altitude. I would welcome having a third party compare my records to the airport’s arrivals and departures log. I monitored many of these flights on my pilot transceiver to confirm airplane identity.

• Instrument days have the opposite effect on noise, so instrument flying has no place in this discussion. When the weather is bad, pilots are generally directed on courses away from residential areas. Taking shortcuts over our homes is not one of their options. These sound issues only happen on clear VFR (visual flight rules) days.

• A number of commenters said we should “stop whining,” “get over it,” etc. They believe we should accept the noise, and some even suggest that we deserve it because we bought or built near an airport. I would like to remind them that we (and many of our neighbors) bought our property knowing its proximity to the airport and lived there comfortably for many years — until the dramatic increase in traffic volume and noise over the past 15 years finally compelled us to speak out. Incidentally, the number of people concerned about airport noise has also increased steadily. It’s not just one or two “whiners” driving this effort; it’s a unified group of residents who have every right to expect and insist on compliance.

• We completely agree with the commenters who say that it’s unsafe for pilots to take off without full power. That’s why we have not suggested it as a solution. We simply want the big jets (Delta, JetBlue, and older corporate aircraft) to take off with full power, climb to a safe altitude, back off on the power as specified by the manufacturer, proceed out over the water, and then resume full power. This is all been carefully designed by the FAA and the airport for both noise reduction and safety. Full details are available on the airport website.

• A final, important point to consider: A Cape Air pilot who takes off on the southwest runway (24), makes a left turn for Hyannis or Nantucket shortly after the wheels leave the ground and flies dangerously low over residential areas will have no real maneuvering options in an emergency. For maximum safety, they should climb out following the direction of the runway, with manufacturer-recommended power settings, until they reach a safe altitude, before they turn on course. A descending Cape Air flight that takes a dog-leg shortcut and flies low over residential areas is just as dangerous. A momentary loss of power could, quite literally, land them in our community. Flying at 1,000 feet and joining the final approach course a mile or two out provides multiple options in the event of an emergency. That’s safe flying. And it complies with the noise abatement procedures, so everyone wins. Considering the upcoming meetings with the airport commission and its members, I have been reluctant to respond to the article and comments. But it is important to provide an accurate perspective of behalf of the members of our communities troubled by the noise.

I am confident that this can be worked out to everyone’s satisfaction.

Dave Stein
West Tisbury

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