HOMEOWNERS OF ENCINO, INC. dba Stop the Noise! Coalition (STN) National Helicopter Noise Coalition (NHNC) GERALD A. SILVER, PRESIDENT P. O. BOX 260205 ENCINO, CA 91426 EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org U. S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION (DOT) FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION (FAA) ****************************************** * In the matter of: * * AVIATION NOISE ABATEMENT * POLICY 2000 * REGULATORY DOCKET 30109 * REQUEST FOR COMMENTS * August 10, 2000 * Submitted to * Office of Chief Counsel * Attn: Rules Docket (AGC-200), * Docket 30109 * Federal Aviation Administration * 800 Independence Ave. S. W. * Washington, DC 20591 * * ******************************************* I. REVISION OF NATONAL AVIATION NOISE ABATEMENT POLICY 2000 BACKGROUND This document is in response to the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) efforts to seek public comment to help the agency revise the 1976 National Aviation Noise Abatement Policy. In 1976, the Department of Transportation (DOT) published its Aviation Noise Abatement Policy, which was intended to provide a course of action for reducing aviation noise. Unfortunately the principles contained in that document and subsequent legislative and regulatory actions were an abysmal failure at addressing the noise problem. It did not result in a dramatic reduction in the size and scope of the noise problem that now adversely affects millions of American residents. The lack of an effective policy during the past 25 years, and the industry-protective nature of the FAA has led to misrepresenting the true scope of the noise problem. Both Congress and the public have been misled into believing that fair and balanced measures were in place to protect the environment, residents and preserve a viable aviation community. In reality the FAA has turned a blind eye to communties--ignoring the growing helicopter noise problem, and the need to phase out general aviation business jets (Stage 2), under 75,000 pounds. The Agency has a myopic view of noise, assuming that noise outside of the 65 DNL is not a "real" problem, or does not impact millions of residents who live near airports. The DOT is now considering a revised policy statement that may extend to all forms of transportation noise. This long over-due revision is divided into two parts: First, the Secretary will publish a policy statement broadly addressing noise concerns. Second, based on this policy statement, the FAA Administrator will then issue aviation noise policy guidelines. The issuance of a draft document on aviation noise abatement is the first step in the process to develop the aviation noise policy. According to the FAA, "it is intended to stimulate ideas that will result in comments to the public docket". It is regrettable that the FAA did not allow adequate time for public comment, nor did it give wide-spread notice to community organizations and individuals that the national noise policy was being revised. It goes without saying that the aviation industry, with its powerful lobbying and close ties to the FAA, will have undue influence over any policy decisions. The FAA states that "its revised policy will reaffirm the major tenets of the 1976 Aviation Noise Abatement Policy and include subsequent developments. It summarizes current conditions affecting aviation and sets forth goals, policies, and strategies for addressing them. This policy document also outlines the foundations and methodologies for assessing aviation noise, promoting research and development in aircraft noise reduction technology and noise abatement procedures, and promoting compatible usage of noise impacted lands. Finally, it presents a selective listing of reference materials that form the basis for the Federal Government's aviation noise policies." These goals are commendable. However in light of the FAA's long history of failures to adequately address the national noise problem, it is hoped that the revision will in fact confront the real noise problems and provide meaningful answers. II. In Order to Frame a Meaningful Noise Policy, the FAA's Conflict of Interest with the Aviation Industry Must Be Addressed Immediately The FAA has a conflicting mission, serving both as regulator and the promoter of aviation. The FAA's role as a "booster club" for the aviation industry, financier of aviation and airport expansion, and role as noise, safety and health regulator are in conflict. These missions are out of balance as clearly demonstrated by the FAA's Noise Abatement Policy. This conflict is no where more clear than the FAA's use of terminology. The noise policy is characterized as an "abatement" policy, when in reality the real intent of the policy is to encourage noise "mitigation". Noise mitigation addresses reducing the noise impacts by placing the burden on residents (read--soundproofing a handful of dwellings in the 65 DNL near airports). Noise abatement addresses reducing noise at its source (read--curfews, phase out of noisy Stage 2 general aviation (GA) jets, limiting access to airports and placing restrictions on operations) The role of the FAA must change. The FAA cannot effectively do its job of abating noise unless it turns that responsibility over to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The FAA must increase its focus on safety, crash prevention, and crash investigation. Instead, the EPA should oversee environmental regulation and address the noise problem, while local governments should oversee airport expansion, airport access and land use compatibility. The FAA makes no secret of its role as an aviation booster club. A recent FAA publication, FAA Aviation Forecasts, Fiscal Years 1996-2007 begins its executive summary with the headline, "Two Years of Traffic Growth and Profits Too!" The logical solution to the conflict of interest is to remove the conflict by dividing FAA's roles between more appropriate agencies. The FAA should remain the regulator of passenger and aircraft safety. The EPA should be the regulator of environmental quality, noise and aviation's damaging health impacts. The multi-billion dollar airline industry already serves as the booster club, it is not an appropriate role for the FAA. Finally local communities must have full control over the development, expansion and airport access at local airports. III. The FAA's Short Comment Period Effectively Discourages Public Participation and Distorts the Scope of the Problem The FAA has lived with its Noise Abatement Policy since 1976, and now after 25 years it is in a sudden rush to revise it. The FAA released the draft policy statement with only a very limited public comment period--a total of only six weeks, and then late in late summer 2000, when many people are on vacation, or community groups unable to comment. Moreover, the FAA has released its draft just before the Government Accounting Office (GAO) was about to publish their own study of airport noise. This timing limits public participation and excludes potentially relevant information. This is another example of the unresponsive actions of the FAA when it comes to addressing noise reduction. If the FAA wants serious, detailed and responsible public participation, it should extend the current comment period by two months, and then leave the file open for another 90 days for supplementary comment. It must also launch a broad-based communication effort to reach millions of residents living near airports, heavily impacted by noise. Only after widespread notice has been given, with adequate response time, should the FAA then revise its policy. This should obviously be after the GAO study is complete and released to the public. IV. Regulate Helicopters as Well as Experimental and Ultra-Light Aircraft the Same as Other Aircraft Unregulated helicopters have become a modern-day form of urban blight and have decimated urban, suburban, and wilderness areas. The major contributors to the helicopter noise problem are the media and sight-seeing (tourist) operations. Helicopters are virtually unregulated by the FAA today. These aircraft are allowed to fly at any altitude (that the pilot deems safe), use any route (except in regulated airspace), fly at any hour of the day or night, with any frequency, and are permitted to hover or circle over one location, without limit. Helicopters often land and take off in or near residential areas, and are not required to use new quieter technology. As a result of this lack of oversight by the FAA, helicopters destroy the health and well being of hundreds of thousands of residents living near airports, heliports and freeways. The FAA should establish a 2,000-foot (AGL) minimum over populated areas. It must establish new noise standards for helicopters and require new craft to be at least 10 dBA quieter than the current fleet. The FAA must mandate a phase-out of the noisiest craft to be completed by 2005. Restrictions need to be put in place to preclude siting heliports within one mile of residential areas. Freeways should not be arbitrarily defined as helicopter routes. The FAA must establish mandatory minimum impact flight paths over all metropolitan areas, and require a preference for industrial routes rather than residential routes. This document next describes the problems faced at one urban airport--Van Nuys Airport (VNY), to illustrate the severity of the national urban helicopter problem. VNY is representative of dozens of similar urban airports with heavy training, sight-seeing and media helicopter operations: A night-time helicopter curfew is urgently needed and long overdue for VNY. A 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. helicopter curfew, for example, would be an important step to limit the out-of-control expansion of helicopters at VNY. As early as 5 a.m. each morning San Fernando Valley residents are awakened by a stream of noisy media helicopters that emerge from VNY. Well before dawn these aircraft fly low over Encino, Sherman Oaks, Studio City and through the Cahuenga Pass. They leave in their path a noise trail that wakes up residents and disturbs sleep. Then the whole process is reversed as a fleet of media helicopters repeats the process during afternoon drive time and into the late evening hours. The helicopter industry would like the world to believe that their helicopter traffic reports every "six minutes" are indispensable. They would like the FAA and the public to think that without helicopter air cover, traffic would grind to a halt. But nothing is further from the truth. Van Nuys Airport has become the region's major helicopter base, covering traffic from Santa Barbara to the Mexican border. When one of the dozen or more media helicopters stationed at VNY takes flight in the early morning, a traffic reporter immediately calls back to the radio or TV station and asks about traffic conditions, locations of accidents, tie ups, etc. At the station, a traffic reporter views a computer monitor and police scanners. The reporter takes notes, logs traffic jams and the like. But the source of traffic information is not the helicopters, but an amazingly efficient system developed by Caltrans. Caltrans has installed hundreds of traffic monitoring loops in the entire freeway network with dozens of video "jam cams". These devices monitor every foot of freeway, giving traffic speeds on each lane of traffic, road conditions and the like. These incidents, closures, maps and video pictures are then transmitted over the Internet to the local news outlets. (The system can be viewed by logging on to http://traffic.maxwell.com/la/). The Caltrans system works night and day, in good or bad weather, and requires no helicopters and generates no smog or air pollution. It's the ideal, pollution free means to report on traffic to the motoring public. Once airborne, the traffic helicopters take their cue from the Caltrans reporting system and promptly fly to a traffic problem. Often a dozen or more helicopters will hover over an accident, creating enormous noise and chaos on the ground. Worse, they become a safety problem to the police and emergency helicopters that must do their work overhead. This gaggle of helicopters overburdens the FAA's traffic controllers who must manage some of the world's most congested airspace. Police officers report that media helicopters interfere with police work and traffic investigations. Media and traffic helicopter operations are not really necessary, and the same information can be gathered and disseminated to the traveling public without any airborne operations. There are legal or regulatory constraints imposed by the FAA that prevent the Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) from easily implementing a night-time helicopter curfew at VNY. Since all helicopters are considered Stage 2 aircraft, they can be controlled by the Airport after completing an FAA Part 161 Study. The FAA will no doubt face a political minefield (read--don't alienate the powerful news media), if it attempts to regulate the helicopter industry. Their industry trade group, Helicopter Associates International (HAI), together with local helicopter media associations, will do everything in their power to block any FAA action. It will take a strong and courageous FAA to do what is right for the public. Judging from past performance, it will take years before even the smallest effort to limit helicopter noise takes place. V. The FAA Must Establish a 3,000-Foot Minimum AGL Height Requirement for All Aircraft Not Taking Off or Landing Aircraft that are nearer the ground are significantly louder than those at higher altitudes. As a general rule, noise decreases by 6 decibels for each doubling of the distance between source and receiver (although atmospheric conditions can significantly affect noise propagation). Therefore aircraft at 3,000 feet AGL are about half as loud as the same aircraft at 1,000 feet. A 3,000-foot minimum altitude rule primarily would reduce noise from helicopters, small aircraft, and air tourism, since commercial passenger aircraft fly substantially higher. The rule would require strict enforcement including greater use of the Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Broadcast (ADS-B) transponders with Global Positioning (GPS) capability. The FAA must change its policy to allow conventional radar to be used for enforcement. Transponders that can record altitude and location of an craft should be used to determine violations of the minimum altitudes. Also, use of Visual Flight Rule (VFR) flights should be greatly restricted over urban areas, so as to induce greater reliance upon Instrument Flight Rule (IFR) operations. VI. Ban Nighttime Flights One of the greatest shortcomings of the Draft Noise Abatement Policy is that night operations and sleep disturbance is almost totally neglected. This is a glaring omission in the draft policy document. Sleep disturbance is mentioned only four times in the approximately 25,000 word document, and then, in a tangential manner. Yet it is one of the most devastating aviation noise impacts. Nighttime flights repeatedly wake residents. Repeatedly waking people up at night leads to sleep deprivation and its resulting health effects causing billions of dollars in lost productivity, thousands of automobile and workplace accidents, and strained family and community relations. Noise induced sleep loss can be caused by noise spikes of 8-10 dBA above ambient noise levels (Griefahn, B., 1990, Research on Noise and Sleep: Present State, Noise as a Public Health Problem, Vol. 5, Swedish Council for Building Research, Stockholm). It is not uncommon for aircraft to cause sleep interference, when single event aircraft noise exceeds 55 decibels. Sleep interference without awakenings, reduce the quality of sleep by shifting sleepers out of deeper levels of sleep. Communities typically adopt noise ordinances to protect against nighttime sleep interference. The 50 dBA nighttime maximum is often selected as the noise limit. The same limit should apply to aircraft. For most domestic airports, this would require a curfew. Many airports around the world use curfews to provide nighttime peace and quiet for their residents. The FAA should establish a nationwide nighttime curfew from 10 PM to 7 AM at airports, exempting only emergency, delayed, and diverted flights. This curfew should apply to all Stage 2 aircraft, including jets under 75,000 lbs., and all helicopters, except in emergency service. VII. The FAA Should Abandon the Day-Night Level Noise Standard of 65 dBA DNL Many critics of aircraft noise have raised serious objections to the use of averaging when addressing the noise problem. One individual has suggested averaging distorts the real nature of noise events. "Dropping a feather on someone's head every minute for one hour, following by a large brick would results in the conclusion that, on average, the impact is equal to dropping a ping pong ball every minute for one hour." Another claims that "a blow from Michael Tyson, averaged over an hour, is equivalent to nothing more than a love pat." Averaging hides the true impact of noise on individuals. The FAA has unjustifiably accepted the 65 dBA DNL as the standard for determining significant noise impact. In reality, substantial impacts occur to millions of people well below the 65 decibel level. The 65 DNL standard is inadequate for many reasons. From a scientific perspective, the 65 decibel level standard is supposed to correlate to individuals being "highly annoyed" by the noise level. But this is subjective-not scientific. The annoyance level between individuals differs greatly, and it is not responsible, nor fair to apply the same arbitrary "highly annoyed" standard to everyone. Substantial impact occurs well before people become highly annoyed. Research has shown that that "high annoyance" occurs around 57 decibels, not 65 (Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, Dec. 1998, 3432). The EPA had identified 55 dBA DNL as a more appropriate noise level. The 55 dBA DNL value remains inadequate for two reasons that have more to do with the metrics, or noise descriptors, than a particular value. (1) Using dBA or the "A" scale does not adequately account for low frequency noise. The "A" weighting discounts low frequency noise by 40 or more decibels. A standard that accounts for low frequency noise using the "C" weighting is necessary to reflect the impact of low frequency noise, such as 65 dBC DNL. (2) The DNL refers to a "day-night level," a yearly average. Averages, however, do not adequately account for the impacts of aircraft noise on individuals. Averages understate "single events" and it is these single loud noises as the airplanes fly overhead that can disrupt sleep and adversely impact an individual's well-being. Being awakened at 5 a.m. or 6 a.m. and not getting a full night's sleep can negatively affect the individual's activities throughout the day -- at work, traveling, and at home. Loud "single noise events" also intrude on conversations, television viewing, reading, and speaking on the telephone. These "single events" rob people of a decent quality of life and potentially could have lasting health effects. Many communities restrict single events to 55-65 dBA in residential areas. VIII. The FAA Must Ban National Park Over-flights The draft noise policy statement currently states that, "The overarching goal is to identify how best to provide access to the airspace over national parks while ensuring all park visitors a quality experience and protecting park resources" (Policy Element 6). Non-emergency access to airspace over national parks is inappropriate, causes a great deal of concern to park visitors and destroys the natural ambiance of the parks. The FAA's goal of a quality visit is impossible to achieve, as long a aircraft are allowed to destroy the natural settings. More studies are not needed to determine what noise levels interfere with natural quiet in parks and wilderness areas. Any aircraft noise interferes. Therefore, aircraft should not be allowed to fly within 10 miles of non-urban national parks, wilderness areas, national monuments, national seashores, and other sensitive and pristine public lands. The National Parks and airspace should be under exclusive control of the Secretary of Dept. of Interior, not the FAA. IX. The FAA Must Revise ANCA and Phase-out Noisy Stage 2 Jet Aircraft, Under 75,000 lbs. Many communities near general aviation (GA) airports are plagued by noisy Stage 2 jet aircraft, under 75,000 lbs. ANCA failed to address this class of aircraft that is now a major part of the noise problem. At many of the nation's GA airports, it is the Gulfstreams, Lears and other Stage 2 aircraft that the FAA has allowed to continue to operate. To date, the FAA has no phase-out plan in place. This failure to address the significant noise problem at airports such as Van Nuys or Teterboro is the result of the heavy lobbying efforts by small jet aircraft manufacturers. The Airport Noise and Capacity Act (ANCA), has placed an unfair and unreasonable burden on airport operators and communities. The fact that not a single Part 161 Study has been completed is true testimony to ANCA's failure over the last 10 years. The FAA must being a phase-out program for aircraft weighing less than 75,000 pounds, that do not meet Stage 3 noise standards. Voluntary "Fly Friendly" agreements by aircraft owners, have been an abysmal failure. There is little incentive for these operators to buy quieter equipment. (See Section 5.4 of the Draft Policy, discussing Stage 1 and Stage 2 phase-outs). Regulations are needed for craft less than 75,000 pounds, just like those for craft more than 75,000 pounds, requiring at least a 10 dB decrease from existing noise levels.