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Airport plan doesn’t fly

Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter A Boeing 737-800 takes off from the Renton Airport last week and heads north toward Mercer Island. Islanders and city officials are concerned that air traffic from a proposed plan to increase use of the facility will mean more flights directly over the Island and more noise. More than 300 Island residents met with Renton officials to talk about the plan on Jan. 29. -
Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter A Boeing 737-800 takes off from the Renton Airport last week and heads north toward Mercer Island. Islanders and city officials are concerned that air traffic from a proposed plan to increase use of the facility will mean more flights directly over the Island and more noise. More than 300 Island residents met with Renton officials to talk about the plan on Jan. 29.
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On Monday, Jan. 29, a low-flying aircraft approaching Renton Airport rattled Peggy and David Dunner when it flew over their South end home.

Disturbed, and a little angry, Peggy Dunner called the municipal airport’s noise complaint hotline to voice her concerns.

That evening, her husband did his part when he told a panel of Renton city and airport officials at a meeting at the Community Center at Mercer View that their plan to invite more jets to a new corporate facility will negatively impact Mercer Islanders.

David Dunner was one of the 300-plus Islanders in attendance to hear what Renton city and airport officials had to say about their plan to build a corporate jet center designed to increase the number of jets using the airport.

Many Islanders took the opportunity to stand before the panel to ask questions and speak their minds.

Councilmember Mike Grady told the panel that his family suffers from the noise pollution. He warned that Islanders are serious about their concerns.

“This is not a group of activists that come and go,” Grady said. “Please take us seriously.”

Grady’s statement summed up the general consensus at the community center that evening.

Islanders said they will not tolerate Renton’s plans to increase the number of corporate jets using the airport unless the flights are routed away from the Island. Jets and planes are too loud and potentially unsafe for the residents below them, resident after resident claimed.

The panel tried to reassure by saying it is working to convince the Federal Aviation Administration to switch the approach to the airport, from its current route above the middle of the Island to a route over the East Channel. But Islanders were not assuaged.

“The curved approach is not an end all cure,” Bob Baker, an Island resident and commercial airline pilot, said. “You’re still going to have the possibility of wind shear and engine problems. This is not going to fix things.”

Del Fadden, a consultant on the panel, said the FAA has added 300 GPS approaches recently and the technology that such technical approaches depend on will be required in aircraft.

“This absolutely will happen. The timing is uncertain at this point, but it will happen,” Fadden said.

The panel presenting the plan consisted of Renton Airport manager Ryan Zulauf, Renton city councilmember Marcie Palmer and a few consultants including Fadden.

Palmer began the presentation by providing a historical context of the expansion plan and credited the beginning to her own crusade to quiet planes using the airport. Palmer lives in the Kennydale neighborhood and is directly below the loop circled by planes waiting to land and students practicing flight.

Palmer said she began a quest six years ago to reduce the noise over her home and was subsequently elected to city council. During this time period she invited airport officials to her home to hear the noise and toured the airport to get an understanding of the operation.

Ultimately, she said she decided the corporate jet center was the best way to reduce the noise.

“I want you to understand that the August Boeing Field closure did not prompt Renton to say, “Oh, we need a corporate jet center,” Palmer told the crowd.

Regardless, the crowd remembered the Island’s experience with excessive noise from the temporary closure of Boeing Field last August and demanded proof the jet center would not make that permanent.

“If the closure last August had never happened, then the project would have just merrily gone along and there wouldn’t be this heightened sense of fear of jets,” Palmer said in a later interview. “But what we saw in August was way more than we will ever see here.”

Islanders have yet to be convinced of that.

“These jets will be like little mosquitoes coming down and buzzing around the Island,” an Island resident told the panel.

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