Saturday, August 29, 2020

How quiet are skies above you? A look at Charlotte Douglas International Airport (KCLT) proposals

Shown in this image from Google Earth are the flights paths of planes departing north from KCLT on July 16th, 2018.

Shown in this image from Google Earth are the flight paths of planes arriving from the north to KCLT on July 16th, 2018.

While there are a good number of airplanes currently flying each day over eastern Gaston County enroute to nearby Charlotte Douglas International Airport, apparently there is little problem with noise.

However, recent recommendations from a community roundtable to the Federal Aviation Administration could result in more inbound and outbound flights from the international airport trekking overhead in the Belmont and Mount Holly areas.

Dan Gardon, who is the noise abatement specialist for Charlotte Douglas International Airport, said the overall intent of the recommendations from the Airport Community Roundtable was to meet two objectives: to increase altitudes for arriving flights and to further disperse departing aircraft over a wider area.

“These address the two most common complaints the airport receives,” he said.

Out of the more than 33,000 noise complaints received by the airport so far in 2020, just 12 of those complaints came from nine households in Gaston County.

Sara Nomellini, chairwoman of the community roundtable, said the majority of complaints received by the airport’s plane noise complaint recording system were from those living in the Steele Creek, South Park and Mountain Island Lake neighborhoods in neighboring Mecklenburg County.

Charlotte’s Airport Community Roundtable was created in June 2017 to provide input on airport-related noise. The group, comprised of 23 volunteers from Mecklenburg, Gaston and York, S.C., counties, has met monthly since 2017 with airport-funded consultants to review potential ways to reduce and equally disperse aircraft noise around the airport.

Sam Stowe is Gaston County’s lone representative. He is a lifelong aviation enthusiast and former licensed private pilot.

“I got involved with ACR at my wife’s suggestion,” Stowe said, “mostly because I had the background to understand the complex topic. I joined the group in October 2019.”

When the ACR was created, applications were sent to every resident who had submitted a complaint through the airport’s plane noise complaint system. That number included 16 Gaston County residents.

Airport officials said just one of the 16 Gaston residents completed the application and joined the ACR, but then left the group a few months later. They said, from that point on, the city of Charlotte Aviation Department attempted to recruit a representative from Gaston County with no success until Stowe joined in the fall of 2019.

Nomellini said there was a consensus from the group in its recommendations.

“The challenges with arrivals and departures were treated with equal importance and all recommendations were unanimously approved,” she said.

Gardon said the overall intent of the ACR’s recommendations related to departures is to reduce the number of overflights over any one specific area as much as possible.

“It is not to lessen the number of noise complaints over specific areas,” he said.

Currently, flights heading northwest from the airport follow a single heading before turning to join the next phase of flight. That path is directly over nearly all of Mount Holly.

One of the panel’s recommendations is to create divergent departure headings rather than follow that one path over Mount Holly.

“This recommendation would likely increase the amount of dispersion in the Mount Holly area,” Gardon said. “Dispersion is about trying to spread aircraft over a wider area so no one neighborhood or house gets a majority of overflights. Aircraft still produce the same amount of noise, but it would be more equitably spread with dispersion.”

Conversely, another recommendation by the panel to remove a two-mile restriction for southbound departures would shift flights departing west further north into Belmont and away from the Steele Creek area in southwest Mecklenburg County.

“It is important to note that this recommendation was submitted in tandem with two others that would further disperse noise from these flights,” Gardon said. “The ACR asked that the three be considered together.”

As far as the noise from inbound flights, the roundtable is asking that the FAA change the airspace and flight procedures in the region to the way it was before. In 2017, the FAA implemented its Charlotte Metroplex plan that it said would improve traffic flow and reduce congestion.

“This move was likely to increase efficiency and throughput in the airport, but had the undesired effect of lowering aircraft altitude by approximately 1,000 feet over a specific area in South Charlotte,” he said.

Gardon said the panel, as well as the consulting firm Harris Miller Miller and Hanson Inc., believe reverting to the pre-Metroplex plan would “reduce noise in that region while having minimal affect on the throughput rate of the airport.”

He said, “Increasing altitude would reduce ground-level noise.”

The six recommendations have been submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration for consideration. If the FFA pursues any of the recommendations, it would seek additional public input before moving forward.

In 2019, Charlotte Douglas International broke its passenger and operations record by serving more than 50 million passengers and handling 573,263 arrivals and departures. The airport ranked sixth nationwide in the number of arrivals and departures, averaging around 1,600 daily.

“Reaching 50 million passengers is a huge milestone,” said Aviation Director/CEO Brent Cagle in the airport’s 2019 annual report. “It’s the biggest jump in passenger traffic we’ve had since 2010, which shows our tremendous growth just within the past year.”

The airport had been on track for another record-setting year in 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic struck.

In April, passenger traffic dove nearly 92 percent when compared with the previous year. There were only 340,265 arrivals and departures for the entire month, down from the 4.2 million passengers in April 2019.

Traffic has picked up in recent months. In May, the number of passenger arrivals and departures was just over 1 million, while there were a little over 1.5 million in June.

In June, there were 355 flights, which is down 54 percent when compared with the 769 flights recorded in June 2019.

No comments:

Post a Comment