Residents of Florida’s New Smyrna Beach are “abuzz over airport noise,” wrote Mark Johnson in the Daytona Beach News-Journal recently.
“A breeze barely moves the palm fronds as Ken Petrie Jr. enjoys a beer on his pool deck when a muted drone interrupts the pleasant evening on the shores of Turnbull Bay,” Johnson wrote. “A scan of the blue skies above reveals the glint of sunlight off the wing of an airplane, likely just lifted off from the New Smyrna Beach Municipal Airport about 3,000 feet to the southeast as the crow flies.”
A “muted drone” it may be, but the sound of airplanes flying over houses near general aviation airports in Florida is creating a “tug of war between those seeking quiet and fliers wishing to take to the skies,” Johnson wrote. In New Smyrna Beach, the battle has reached such in-your-face methods as billboards and Web sites.
Petrie admits that, when he bought his house in 2004, he knew he would be living within earshot of the airfield. “I talked to my neighbors about it, and they said I would not know it was there,” he told Johnson. For the first eight months, he said, he rarely heard a plane; then, “like someone turned on a switch, aircraft began circling his house like buzzards over roadkill.”
Airport manager Rhonda Walker told Johnson that Air Traffic Controllers moved flight training operations to turn right, after takeoff, for safety. Avoiding complaints about noise at airports may be impossible, she said. “At all the meetings I go to with other airport managers, noise is a major issue.” If it seems like a bigger problem in New Smyrna Beach, she said, it’s because of the organized nature of the opposition.
Local pilots say noise complaints are nothing new. “(They) are the same as they were in the 1990s,” said Dr. Arlen Stauffer, who flies from New Smyrna Beach. He suspects officials heard similar objections when the runways were used to train U.S. Navy aviators during World War II.
Petrie, a corporate officer at anti-noise advocate NSBAIRPORTNOISE Inc., said the issue is not general flight operations but “the constant sorties from flight schools” which, he believes, are “encouraged by the state as an economic shot in the arm to local communities.” City officials said five schools use the New Smyrna Beach airfield regularly and about another 15 less so.
Petrie’s group believes the airport should charge a fee to every pilot landing at the airfield. Landing fees would generate income the airport could use to free itself from governmental grants and their conditions, he told Johnson, “allowing the city to dictate flight operations from its runways.” Kathleen Bergen, speaking for the Federal Aviation Administration, said that, to be valid, such fees must be proven to be nondiscriminatory or not designed to limit a particular activity at the airfield.
Supporters of the airfield, such as Friends of New Smyrna Beach Airport Inc., suspect that those behind the attacks are a minority of residents, if they live in the city limits at all. In 2008, 83 people made noise or operational complaints — less than 1/2 of 1% of the city’s 23,000 residents — according to an analysis of reports made to the city. That study also showed that 23 people accounted for 79% of the 437 complaints logged between October 2007 and October 2008.
To read the full story, which is long: www.news-journalonline.com/NewsJournalOnline/News/Headlines/frtHEAD01041909.htm