Have you heard an airplane go by recently? Many Standish and Ericsson residents have been hearing multiple flights overhead. What’s more, the flights are extremely loud. Airplanes can be heard from inside the house and are particularly nerve-wracking when people are working or playing outside. Since September, a long conversation on this topic has been taking place (228 postings as of mid-December on the neighborhood online forum). People report flights as often as one a minute at certain times of day (usually around 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.).
Airport noise was a problem in the 1990s, and, after many neighborhood complaints and help from government leaders, the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) agreed to a program of noise mitigation in the neighborhoods near the airport. Homes in the noisiest area received new doors, windows, central air, vent baffles, and other changes to decrease the noise level indoors. Some homes in Bloomington and Richfield and a few in South Minneapolis are still in line to receive benefits, thanks to a City lawsuit against MAC in 2007. Mitigation resulting from the lawsuit is taking place in phases, with some homes getting the full package and others getting improvements of a lesser dollar value, depending on how much noise they are projected to receive.
Meanwhile, new areas north and east of where the original problem occurred have reported increased flights and noise. When 200 residents of South Minneapolis attended meetings of MAC’s Noise Oversight Committee last fall, they came from the Standish, Ericsson, and Nokomis neighborhoods but also from the Powderhorn Neighborhood, which stretches north to Lake St.
The new situation results, in part, from a change in flight plans that took place in May 2010. North- and east-bound flights were relegated to only one runway (runway 30R, the north parallel), as a safety measure after a near-collision in early 2010. The flight pattern requires a plane to make an immediate turn, which increases the noise. It also positions the flight to go over new parts of the city, which are the neighborhoods hearing more planes.
The people protesting the increased noise point out that the flight changes were made without announcement or neighborhood input. Most of them bought their homes specifically because they were outside the areas known to be affected by airport noise.
In November, FAA Control Tower Manager Carl Rydeen spoke at a meeting of the Noise Oversight Committee, explaining the change in operations. Later, he met with City Council Member Sandy Colvin Roy. “When I first heard Mr. Rydeen’s report on the increased noise,” said Colvin Roy, “I was certain that the change in operations couldn’t be the whole answer. Turns out the increase in the number of regional jets to 54% of all flights in 2011 was also a big factor because they turn off the runway sooner, and that point on the north parallel runway is much closer to homes than the end of the runway, so they are closer to the ground when they are over the houses.”
The noise issue has now attracted the attention of many people. The January meeting of the Noise Oversight Committee reviewed the problem; the council members from the affected wards have called for answers; and residents have shown their willingness to attend meetings and ask questions. How much the residents’ concerns will be acted upon by airport officials and the Federal Aviation Administration is something to watch in the coming months.