Renton landing patterns to change

Both Renton and Island residents file noise complaints about airport

The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to release its newly approved GPS-assisted approach to the Renton Airport next month, and airport officials expect it to decrease the number of noisy landings over the Island.

Once the FAA gives the go-ahead on the new approach, any pilot with the appropriate technology and equipment will be able to fly the route. The airport does not have to make any changes. The new landing will have a much steeper angle of descent, keeping planes higher above the Island for a longer time period. According to a newsletter published for the Renton Airport Advisory Committee, or RAAC, the new landing will have two benefits for Islanders.

“First, pilots flying the [new] approach won’t have to add power and level out over Mercer Island [creating more noise] before descending again at the South end. Second, the steeper approach to the runway will mean that aircraft flying the approach will remain higher over the Island, thus increasing the separation between noise-sensitive areas and the aircraft.”

This summer, there were 58 total noise complaints for the Renton Airport. Islanders called in or reported nearly half of those. During the third quarter, July through September, 48 percent of the complaints were from Islanders, with 38 percent coming from Renton residents.

The newsletter also states that there is currently one corporation with aircraft based in Renton that is planning an upgrade to use the new landing system. Airport officials said they believe that the new approach will be easier to fly than the two existing landings, which would encourage pilots and companies to convert. However, officials said that “single noise events will still occur over the Island.”

“[It] will not be a silver bullet for all the citizens concerned with excess noise, but we hope that citizens will notice a positive difference,” the newsletter states.

The design of the airport, which caused a stir among Islanders when it included a corporate jet center before the idea was abandoned late last year, is still under review by the FAA. The city of Renton hopes that the plans will be approved before the end of the year. Two major leases are included in the plan. After Boeing surprised both Island and Renton city leaders when it announced its intentions to lease more ground space for its 737 program, it became apparent that the idea of the jet center resulted from the lack of room to accommodate both. In addition to Boeing, the airport will lease a building to AcuWings for flight training, pilot supply sales and aircraft rentals and sales.

Next summer, the city of Renton plans to repave the runway using $39.5 million from a FAA grant. The project is expected to begin during the last week of July or early August of 2009. About 12 miles of asphalt will be laid in two days during 24 hour shifts.

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