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Letter to the Editor: 'Airplane Noise, the Invisible Killer'

Patch reader discusses adverse health effects of increased air traffic noise.

Dear Editor, 

Elevated sound levels do more than cause aggravation and disrupt sleep (both proven factors in causing stress, decreasing our performance, and increasing accidents). Noise can damage hearing and cause hypertension and heart disease.

In 2007, Germany’s central environmental office, Umweltbundesamt, correlated aircraft noise with health data from 800,000 people living near Cologne Airport. The study was prompted by local doctors who suspected that an observable concentration of medical cases might be traceable to nighttime air traffic.

Their research concluded that aircraft noise significantly impairs health, citing alarming statistics associated with “normal” airport sound levels. Daytime average sound level of 60 decibel (dB) increased coronary heart disease by 61% in men and 80% in women. Nighttime average level of 55 dB increased the risk of heart attacks by 66% in men and 139% in women. Some airports restrict night flying, like all London airports and Germany’s Frankfurt Airport. Others strategically route flights over non-residential pathways. The approach to Dublin Airport is largely over seafront and coastal farms. The FAA's current attempt to disregard noise pollution as a problem, defies their previous admission to its existence. In the 1980′s, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) devised ways to insulate American residences from aircraft noise. California’s San Francisco and San Jose International Airports were among the first to use computer modeling to simulate the effects of aircraft noise on buildings. Retrofit strategies were evaluated and employed; results tracked and new strategies tested. Four dozen homes near Florida’s Fort Lauderdale airport were soundproofed in advance of a runway expansion. Simple home improvements proved most successful: the airport paid to upgrade roof insulation and replace windows and doors.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PA) operates and maintains that region’s three major international airports: LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy and Newark Liberty. In 1983, the PA, in partnership with the FAA, undertook a program to soundproof schools located in federally defined aircraft “noise-affected areas”.

Beyond being a public audio menace, there’s a technical downside. The powerful sound waves generated by jet engine combustion can violently shake engine components, accelerating mechanical failure. Researchers at the University of Alabama quiet combustion at its source.

A sponge-like ring made of hafnium carbide and silicon carbide, placed around the engine flame point to dampen sound before it escapes, is being tested. Highly porous, the ring allows gases to flow and the composite material tolerates extreme conditions of combustion. It cuts noise without interfering with engine process.

For more information please read http://www.greenprophet.com/2012/05/jet-enginering-sponge-noise-pollution/

The fact that:

  1. a noise reduction experiment is taking place and,
  2. international health studies have proven airplane noise is detrimental to people, 

is a testament to all the communities who are suffering from the terrible noise produced by low-flying airplanes. Our elected officials should take a more concrete stand to mandate the FAA to at least, return to pre-October 2011 landing patterns for JFK and La Guardia. Legislation to protect residential areas should be enacted and the FAA should be subjected to heavy monetary sanctions if they do not comply. Moreover, while it would be nice to have insulated homes to not hear the loud planes, it is not acceptable that we cannot sit outside and enjoy our back yards as we once did. I am writing this inside, since low flying planes, one after another, are flying over my home, for hours.

The FAA is not infallible. One frightening excerpt from the US Office of Special Counsel is on NY TRACON, the same individuals that always talk about safety at Town-Village Airplane Safety and Noise Abatement meetings!

Air traffic controllers in the greater New York airspace slept in the control room, left their shifts early, used personal electronic devices while on the job and used dangerously imprecise language when directing aircraft, resulting in a near-crash; Please read this article for more information. http://www.osc.gov/documents/press/2012/pr12_09du.pdf 

Senators Schumer's and Gillibrand's offer of an email address and phone number to continue our fruitless complaints about airplane noise is insulting. It is time for them to work for their reelection and prove that they truly care about the PEOPLE of Nassau County, Long Island. 

For more information please visit www.quietskies.net

Sincerely,

Blima Mandelbaum

President, Albertson Airplane Noise Abatement and Safety Committee

Jack O'Niel May 24, 2012 at 08:33 PM
I took some samples near Washington and saw the following: Cars (over the 30 mph limit) 55-65db Buses 70-74db Smaller plane (737 size or about) directly overhead 83db
John Coyle May 24, 2012 at 09:20 PM
Something really needs to be done sooner than later. Like you mention in your article we cannot even sit in the back yard anymore. In fact, it has become nearly impossible to watch television at night due to the loud roars flying overhead every minute to minute and a half.
James Joseph May 24, 2012 at 09:41 PM
I regretfully did not make it to the meeting the other night. I was wondering what Patty and Company feel about this and what are they doing to make this a top priority?
Washington Ave. May 25, 2012 at 01:33 PM
I don't notice the noise & live on the east side. I understand those in the western do, however.
Peter Robideau May 25, 2012 at 01:58 PM
I've been using a free app for my iPhone called "Decibel Ultra" to measure noise levels of planes flying overhead. I can't speak to the accuracy of this software, but the needle definitely jumps when an airplane is overhead. So far the highest reading I've got is a 95 with most planes coming in at around 87.

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