Friday, April 06, 2012

Regulatory: When it comes to airport noise regulation, “Big Brother” is watching you. Local airport operators have few options when regulating noise

With the long awaited passage of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, H.R. 658 (FAA Reauthorization Act), on March 6, 2012, the increasing pace of expansion of both commercial and general aviation airports, and the FAA’s new airspace redesign initiatives to reduce delay, airport noise and its impacts have become an increasingly hot topic.

In the old days, pre-1990, local airport operators, usually constituted of elected local representatives, could impose “reasonable, noise based, nondiscriminatory” regulations such as limits on the noisiest aircraft using the airport, as well as on the hours of operation (curfews). While many local communities currently impacted by noise from runway realignments and changes in approach and departure patterns still pressure their local representatives for relief, since the passage of the Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990 [1] (ANCA), the power to regulate airport noise has become, with very few exceptions, the exclusive province of the federal government. 

ANCA’s principal aim was to substitute advances in “quiet engine” technology for restrictions on airport operations. To carry out that aim, ANCA mandated that the noisiest, “Stage 2,” aircraft in excess of 75,000 lbs. (generally commercial aircraft)[2] would be phased entirely out of the existing fleet by Dec. 31, 1999 [3] and no new Stage 2 aircraft above 75,000 lbs. could be added after Nov. 5, 1990 [4] (Non-Addition Rule).[5]

In return for ensured technological advances, ANCA divests local proprietors of the power to unilaterally regulate airport noise.

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