A ‘precision’ approach to aircraft noise

A presentation last week by consultants hired to conduct a noise study on the effects of air traffic from the Renton Airport over Mercer Island last week was not well-received.

Air-traffic speak such as IFR, DNLs INMs, “non-precision approach,” etc., left Islanders unimpressed.

At the meeting, Islanders learned that the consultant, Harris Miller Miller & Hanson Inc., did not have baseline data regarding ambient noise levels on Mercer Island. Instead the consultant said they would use computer models to simulate the noise effects of the airplanes overhead.

The impact of noise will be considered in determining the final design of the remodeled municipal airport, officials said.

There is nothing in place now to control noise in a concrete fashion beyond hoping for the “goodwill” of pilots and technological changes in the works to quiet aircraft engines. At present, Islanders have to rely on pilots who are encouraged to “fly friendly” to minimize noise. Surely in this high-tech world of ours there would be a way to encourage such goodwill by monitoring the noise of each aircraft — and levying a fine for those who don’t feel enough goodwill as they prepare to land.

Information distributed at the session noted that the air traffic in and out of Renton is supposed to “increase gradually over time” and that noise will “not increase dramatically over today’s levels,” suggesting perhaps Islanders will grow immune to the roar of jet engines only a few hundred feet overhead. This makes one wonder if the $130,000 study is just a formality. No matter what, more airplanes are on the way.

A common-sense suggestion made by Islanders was to at least prohibit planes overhead between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. and fine those pilots who don’t comply.

Let’s hope the sponsors (Mercer Island and Renton) of this study will point the consultants back to the drawing board. And let it be known that Islanders prefer a “precision” approach — namely fewer flights overhead.

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