AIRPORT NOISE LAW
STATUTES AND REGULATIONS

Statutes
Regulations
Local Ordinances
Foreign/International
Miscellaneous Legal Documents

Revised February 27, 2011





Statutes

FEDERAL

Tip Search and retrieve text of the U.S. Code at House or Cornell. See the chronological list of acts of Congress related to airport noise control and airport development; History of U.S. Legislation Concerning Airport Noise; and History of Aircraft Noise Regulation in the U.S. to 1981.


CALIFORNIA

Tip Search and retrieve text of California codes at California Law.


OTHER STATES

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Regulations

FEDERAL

Tip Search and retrieve text of Code of Federal Regulations at CFR. Regulations issued by the Federal Aviation Administration are contained in title 14 of the CFR. FAA regulations are available on the Web at FAR text or FAR archive. Like all federal agencies the Department of Transportation has established a program of periodic review of its regulations -- see Department of Transportation Unified Agenda and FAA Regulatory Review Program. FAA Advisory Circulars are advisory only; they are not binding on the public.


CALIFORNIA

Tip The complete California Code of Regulations are available on the Web site of the California Office of Administrative Law.

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Local Ordinances

BLUE ASH, OHIO

The Cincinnati-Blue Ash Airport lies within the city limits of Blue Ash but is owned by the City of Cincinnati. Out of concern for the noise of aircraft departing the airport, the City of Blue Ash enacted an ordinance requiring pilots departing the airport to make specified turns in order to reduce aircraft noise in residential areas. In United States v. City of Blue Ash (U.S. Ct. So. Dist. Ohio, 1978; 487 F.Supp. 135; aff'd, 6th Cir., April 15, 1980, 621 F.2d 227) the court declared the ordinance invalid because the federal government has preempted the field of regulating aircraft in flight.


BURBANK, CALIFORNIA

Measure A (2001) -- Passed by voters in a special election in October 2001, this initiative requires that a nighttime curfew and cap on flights be imposed at the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport before any expansion of the airport is undertaken. The initiative was declared invalid by a court.


CLEARWATER, FLORIDA

City Code Section 4.23 (amended Nov. 1, 2001) -- prohibits flying between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.


HAM LAKE, MINNESOTA

Ordinance Regulating Sites of Operation of Aircraft (2000) -- City adopted an ordinance regulating where helicopters were permitted to land and take off in the city. The ordinance was upheld by a state appellate court, which ruled that the ordinance was not constitutionally void for vagueness and was not preempted by federal regulation of airspace.


HAYWARD, CALIFORNIA

City Ordinance 91-16 (July 23, 1991) -- An example of noise regulation based on absolute noise limits (the "single event noise exposure level" or SENEL). (The Santa Monica, California, Airport has a similar regulation.) This ordinance is a revision of a 1975 ordinance, enacted before the federal Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990 restricted the ability of airports to adopt noise abatement programs. A lawsuit challenging the 1975 ordinance resulted in the important "proprietor exception" to federal preemption of local regulation of aircraft noise; see National Aviation v. City of Hayward (1976).


HILLSBORO, OREGON

Airport Zoning Ordinance (2009) -- City of Hillsboro adopted a new zoning district imposing restrictions on land use and requiring avigation easements for future development in an area near Hillsboro Airport, owned and operated by the Port of Portland. The ordinance was determined to be an unconstitutional taking of property without compensation by the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals, and the board's decision was upheld by a court of appeals.


HONOLULU, HAWAII

City Ordinance 40-6.1 (amended 1996) -- The ordinance bans the use of aircraft for advertising in any way. It was upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Skysign Intern., Inc. v. City and County of Honolulu. The court held that federal aviation law did not preempt local ordinances regulating aerial advertising because Congress did not so completely occupy the field of aviation as to preempt the subfield of aerial advertising. (In contrast, see Banner Advertising, Inc. v. City of Boulder (Colorado Supreme Ct., 1994; 868 P.2d 1077). The Banner court found that federal law preempted Boulder's ordinance banning aerial advertising. The Skysign court distinguishes that case; see footnote 6.)


LEE'S SUMMIT, MISSOURI

Proposed city charter amendment (2005) -- Activists put this amendment to a vote by an initiative, which was defeated (56% against) in a special election for which about 20 percent of registered voters turned out. The amendment would have required "any expansion" of the local airport to be approved by voters. A similar measure in Burbank (Calif.), which voters approved, was declared invalid (see above).


LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA

City of Los Angeles Ordinance: Van Nuys Airport Noise Abatement (August 10, 1981) -- The ordinance establishes a "no flight curfew" for certain types of planes between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.; bans "touch and go" flying between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. from September through June and between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. the rest of the year; establishes a preferential runway for traffic between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.; and prohibits engine maintenance "run ups" between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.


NAPLES, FLORIDA

City of Naples Airport Authority Resolution #2000-8 (Nov. 16, 2000) -- Prohibits stage-2 jets. The ordinance was upheld in a lawsuit, but subsequently the FAA challenged the ordinance through its own administrative process (see Administrative Cases).


ORANGE COUNTY, CALIFORNIA

Measure A (1994) -- Passed by voters in November 1994, this initiative amended the county's general plan to require that the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station "shall be used for a publicly or privately owned and operated airport."

Measure S (1996) -- Defeated by voters in December 1996, this initiative would have repealed Measure A.

Measure F (2000) -- Passed by voters in March 2000, this initiative requires a two-thirds vote of the electorate for approval of any airport projects. The measure was declared invalid by a court. However, because passage of the measure reflected widespread opposition to development of a civilian airport at the former El Toro Marine Corps field, the mere passage of the measure killed any prospect of a civilian airport at the El Toro field.

Measure W (2002) -- Passed by voters in March 2002 (58% county-wide, 87% in southern portion of the county), this initiative repeals Measure A (see above) and amends the county's general plan to designate the former Marine Corps Air Station for use as a park, educational and cultural facilities, and other nonaviation uses.


POMPANO BEACH, FLORIDA

City Code Section 93.06: Noise Abatement Limitations (July 18, 1995) -- Restricts weekday hours of touch-and-go flying and prohibits same on weekends and holidays. (See also airport's noise abatement guidelines.)


SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA

City Code Chapter 12.03: Airport Curfew (October 21, 2003) -- Prohibits takeoffs or landings within curfew hours by aircraft exceeding an average of 89 decibels. The ordinance was adopted after legal challenges to the city's previous curfew. Under a previous curfew, adopted in 1984 (see below), aircraft were categorized according to both noise level (stage 1 being the noisiest and stage 3 the quietest) and weight (heavier airplanes being defined as "transport aircraft" and lighter airplanes as "non-transport aircraft"), and aircraft operators were classified either as commercial "air carriers" or as non-commercial "general aviation" operators. Whether a particular aircraft was exempt from the curfew or eligible for a waiver of its provisions depended on the interplay of these factors. The 1984 curfew was not only attacked in court but was also the subject of an informal complaint to the FAA filed by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. The 2003 ordinance was drafted in collaboration with the FAA.

Aircraft Restrictions (Curfew) (1984, amended 1988, superseded 2003)


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Foreign/International

FOREIGN

European Union

European Union Directive 92/14/EEC (March 2, 1992) -- Bans operation of "stage-2" jet aircraft in the European Community after April 1, 2002.
European Union Directive 2002/30/EC (March 26, 2002) -- Establishes rules and procedures with regard to the introduction of noise-related operating restrictions at airports within the European Community. (File is 120 kB Acrobat PDF.)

Switzerland: Legal Basis of Noise Abatement

United Kingdom: Airport Noise Regulation -- See also Department of Transport: Aviation.


INTERNATIONAL

Convention on International Civil Aviation -- Annex 16, Vol. 1, Part II, Chapter 4 establishes the most current (as of 2002) noise standards for jet aircraft engines. (The annexes to the Convention are available at the International Civil Aviation Organization e-Shop by subscription only. So much for free public access to documents prepared in the name of the public.)

International Civil Aviation Organization

33rd ICAO Assembly Resolution A33/7 -- Establishes a "balanced approach" to noise management, including four elements: (1) reduction of aircraft noise at the source, (2) land-use planning and management measures, (3) operational procedures, and (4) operating restrictions. (To get the text of Resolution A33-7, go to the ICAO website, find the page for the 33d Assembly, then click on "Resolutions".)


Miscellaneous Legal Documents

FEDERAL

Executive Order 12898, Environmental Justice Program in the Federal Government, issued by the President on February 11, 1994.


CALIFORNIA

California Attorney General's Opinion, 69-216, 53 Op.Atty.Gen. 75 (1970). Opinion includes: (1) The federal government has occupied a portion of but has not preempted the entire field of regulating aircraft-produced community noise and state and local governments may legislate in the field if there is no conflict with federal statutes or regulations. (2) State and local governments which are airport proprietors may regulate aircraft-produced community noise in their capacity as proprietors despite federal statutes or regulations covering the field. (3) State and local governments may regulate aircraft-produced community noise by land use controls such as airport siting and zoning without restriction by the federal government.

California Attorney General's Opinion, 90-914 (1991). Opinion: The jurisdiction of a county airport land-use commission is limited by county boundaries.

California Attorney General's Opinion, 94-903 (1995). Opinion: The names, addresses, and telephone numbers of persons who have filed noise complaints concerning the operation of a city airport are subject to public disclosure unless the city can establish in the particular circumstances that the public interest served by not making the information public clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure. The opinion outlines a balancing test for weighing disclosure versus nondisclosure. (The balancing test was used in 1999 by an appellate court in the case of City of San Jose v. Superior Court (Mercury News). The court concluded that in this case a newspaper was not entitled to learn the identity of complainants.)

California Attorney General's Opinion, 03-805 (2004). Opinion: A county airport land use commission may not exempt a specific plan adopted by a city or county from compliance with the commission’s more stringent compatibility standards for land use, development density, and development intensity in the vicinity of a public use airport. (These commissions were created by the state in part to restrain construction of housing and other noise-sensitive uses near airports.)


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