MSP Airport Noise Links
Airport Noise Pollution
Airport noise is something that the residents of the 11th Ward deal with on a daily basis. That doesn't mean we need to be complacient. Council Member Quincy and a number of other elected officials and staff are looking for ways to improve the noise pollution problems around the airport and make sure that the noise pollution is shared. Below are updates on the happenings regarding noise pollution from the airport.
May 10, 2013
Consent Decree Amendment Authorized
The City of Minneapolis has long fought to have the Metropolitan Airports Commission protect Minneapolis residents from the detrimental impacts of the airport, including noise pollution generated by air traffic. As a result of that work, we have the most extensive noise mitigation program in the country; however, the City’s work cannot stop there.
Currently, the MAC is working to finalize an expansion plan, known as the MSP 2020 Improvement Plan, that includes a number of projects that prepare the airport for projected needs well into the future. Minneapolis City officials have been tracking the MAC’s proposed plans and pushing the MAC to extend the existing noise mitigation program and standards to any homes that may be impacted by the future airport noise pollution.
The City Council approved a measure that will spur the MAC to continue to address the impact of airport noise pollution on surrounding Minneapolis communities. The City Council approved an amendment to a 2007 court-approved settlement agreement in which the communities surrounding the airport and the MAC agreed that sound mitigation should be available to households out to the 60DNL.
The MAC proposed using estimates and 7 year projections to create contour maps showing where it thinks the noise will be in 2020 and had proposed mitigation for just those blocks. But, if between now and 2020, the flight patterns change and the noise becomes more intense elsewhere, there would be no way to compensate for that. So if certain blocks were not projected to reach the agreed upon threshold, yet residents found themselves living with that level of traffic, there was no method to provide relief.
The revised settlement amendment approved by the City Council calls for this annual evaluation and states that if a property is at or above 60DNL for three consecutive years, then that property will be eligible for the same sound mitigation options as was required in the original settlement agreement.
Because the original settlement agreement was between the MAC and multiple jurisdictions, all of those parties must approve the amendment to the settlement agreement. The amended agreement must also be approved by Hennepin County Courts and the Federal Aviation Administration.
Throughout this negotiation process with the MAC, the City’s goal has been to preserve the most extensive noise mitigation program in the country, which is what our residents deserve.
MSP 2020 Plan Environmental Assessment
The Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) is currently in the process of finalizing an expansion plan that includes many different projects to prepare the airport for the projected needs in 2030. While the City of Minneapolis recognizes the value that the airport brings to the region, City leaders are committed to ensuring that Minneapolis residents continue to have protection from the environmental impacts of the airport including noise generated by air traffic.
As part of the settlement of a lawsuit in 2007, the communities surrounding the airport and the MAC agreed that mitigation should be available out to the 60DNL. That agreement is the most extensive noise mitigation program in the country. As MAC moves forward with their expansion plans, Minneapolis officials are committed to working with the MAC and other local jurisdictions to ensure that our residents have the same noise protection as the airport grows to meet future demands.
But Minneapolis is also looking to enhance the program. In the past, mitigation has been based on the contour maps that were developed using projected numbers of flights and projections for the tracks of those flights several years into the future. What Minneapolis is requesting and the MAC seems agreeable to is basing mitigation on current flight track data for the year, and reexamining those maps each year to see if there are more blocks that qualify.
Under the old system, the MAC was using estimates and projections to create contour maps of where they think the noise will be in 2020 and had proposed mitigation for just those blocks. But, if between now and 2020, the flight patterns changed and the noise was more intense elsewhere, there was no way to compensate for that. So if certain blocks were not projected to reach the agreed upon threshold, but the residents were living with that level of traffic, there was no method to provide relief.
Under what Minneapolis proposed, at the end of the year, MAC will take the actual flights for 2013 and following years and put them into their computer modeling, and based on the new contours see which blocks are receiving noise above the agreed upon threshold and then after a specified measuring period start the process for mitigating those homes.
The City of Minneapolis is negotiating with the MAC to reach an agreement that appropriately covers Minneapolis residents, but things look hopeful. Minneapolis’ goal is to preserve the most extensive noise mitigation program in the country, which is what our residents deserve.
Performance Based Navigation - 2/14/13
The most recent Federal Aviation Policy bill requires the FAA to implement the next generation of airplane navigation, conveniently known as NextGen. The law requires FAA to implement NextGen at the 35 largest airports by 2025. The FAA states, “NextGen enhances safety, reduces delays, saves fuel and reduces aviation's environmental impact.” (http://www.faa.gov/nextgen/) A portion of NextGen is a series of departure and arrival procedures known at RNAV.
Under current departure procedures, airplanes leave the runway and are told to turn a specific direction, but the plane is still at the mercy of how quickly it can become stable in the air before making the initial turn, and the winds aloft, so the path of the planes can vary significantly depending on the type of plane, how heavily it is loaded, and the weather. Under RNAV, planes would take off and then all aim for a specific point that is a couple miles out from the airport. Therefore, the closer to the point the planes get, the more flights there are all flying a very similar path. Since the points would be the same every day, those paths are very predictable. This change is very good news for airports that have a freeway, rivers, industrial corridor or other land that does not have homes on it. The planes can be routed over these compatible land uses, lessening the impact of airplane noise on residential homes.
Since 2010, the FAA has been meeting with airlines and other airport users to solicit their input into where to place these points around MSP. In January of 2012, the FAA was on the agenda of the Noise Oversight Committee (NOC) to publically present where the points would be located, but just before the meeting, they withdrew their request to make a presentation. It was on the agenda for the next NOC meeting in March, and again withdrawn. Finally in September, the FAA was ready to present the tracks. The MAC had planned that the community representatives of NOC would develop a plan for public notification (not input) of the tracks before the next NOC meeting in November and then implement the notification plan between November and January. However, at the meeting the FAA stated that they needed things to move much faster than that. They said that due to time constraints with their testing equipment, they either needed the MAC to show their support for the RNAV tracks as presented, without any opportunity for changes, or the implementation of the project would be delayed until the fall of 2014.
The City of Minneapolis and residents of SW Minneapolis immediately recognized problems with the RNAV tracks. Currently, flights take off from the south parallel runway (R 30L) and generally follow Crosstown 62. But the actual track the plane follows depends on how quickly it can turn and the winds aloft. The development of RNAV tracks was an opportunity for the FAA to put the flights in a very tight pattern over the Crosstown, or some other compatible land use. But instead, the FAA developed two main tracks for Runway 30L. One track over the Crosstown and was projected to handle approximately half of the flights. But the other half of the flights would have concentrated flights over a swath of residential homes in SW Minneapolis and Edina, aimed at a point just south of downtown Hopkins. The FAA said that they needed the two tracks because at the very busiest times at the airport, they would not have the capacity for all the flights that would be departing off of 30L. Spread out over a 24 hour period (or actually 16 hours - 7am to 11pm), there is plenty of capacity, but being a hub airport for Delta, MSP has banks of hours where a number of flights come in to MSP, the passengers catch their connecting flight and then lots of flights are trying to leave all at the same time. It is during these banks that there would not be enough capacity.
Residents and City officials from both Minneapolis and Edina strenuously objected to the lack of public process in developing the RNAV tracks. The MAC listened and asked the FAA to move forward with implementation of RNAV on most runways at MSP, but to delay in the implementation of the tracks for 30L and 30R.
At this point, the FAA is investigating whether they can implement RNAV safely on some of the runways while not implementing it on 30L and 30R. They plan to report back to the Noise Oversight Committee in March. The FAA has stated they currently do not plan to implement RNAV tracks for 30R and 30L, and as of now, do not have plans to revisit that decision. Obviously decisions can change, so the city is watching this topic closely. Proactively, the City is working on advisory information for the FAA about what a public process to notify residents of this proposed change should entail, in case the FAA decides to implement RNAV tracks on 30R and 30L.
Performance Based Navigation - 11/30/12
Over the past year, the FAA has been working with the airlines to develop new Performance Based Navigation departure and arrival routes, known as RNAV, for commercial flights using MSP. The actual tracks were not seen by anyone other than the FAA and the airlines, until the end of September. As they were releasing these tracks, the FAA requested that the MAC take action and grant their support for the tracks by the middle of November.
There appears to be tangible noise benefits for the communities to the south of MSP, but the potentialramifications for the departures to the north was less clear. It appears the FAA is taking the flights from a corridor that currently nominally uses the Crosstown as the departure corridor andwill put half of those departures on a set corridor south of Lake Harriet. Part of the reason there is so little information about the potential ramifications of the new tracks is that there has not been a comprehensive assessment of the environmental impacts. Additionally, the RNAV plan is moving forward, separate from the airport expansion plans that will also be increasing airport traffic. The City of Minneapolis has for months been asking the MAC and FAA to study the environmental impacts of the expansion of the terminals along with the implementation of RNAV. So far, the MAC and FAA have done a much simpler Environmental Assessment (EA) for the terminal expansion plan and nothing formal for environmental assessment of RNAV. So, what the city has been requesting is:
An Environmental Impact Statement for the expansion plans that takes RNAV into account
Community conversation about the location of the RNAV departure tracks.
We are hoping to hear soon from the MAC and FAA on how they plan to proceed.
Environmental Assessment For Airport Expansion - 9/1/12
The Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), is considering an expansion in the number of gates at the airport and additional taxiways and other building. Under one of the scenarios,Delta and it’s partners would be the sole tenants within the Lindberg Terminal and all other airlines would be based at the Humphrey Terminal.
The MAC has conducted an Environmental Assessment (EA) on the various plans and have released the results for public comment. The MAC will conduct three open house opportunities to learn more about the EA as well as a formal public hearing. The open house being held in Minneapolis will be on September 18 at the Lake Nokomis Community Center, 2401 E. Minnehaha Pkwy, 5:30-8:30 PM. The public hearing will be October 1 at MAC offices 6040 28th Ave S., 7:00 PM. The comment period closes on October 11.
Minneapolis officials will be preparing comments and testifying at the MAC meeting, as well as attending the public open houses.
Noise Oversight Committee - 7/11/12
The Noise Oversight Committee (NOC), and advisory committee of the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) met on July 11. A couple of items of interest came out of that meeting.
Divergent Departure Headings- Last summer there was a large number of complaints about airplane noise coming from new areas of the city that had not seen that level of noise. Council Member Quincy and city staff worked with residents, MAC staff and FAA staff to figure out what was different from previous years. Many theories evolved and the answer is likely a combination of a multitude of factors, but one thing that became fairly plain was that the airlines are using more regional jets (CRJ’s) which allowed for more flights flying a nearly identical pattern and at shorter intervals and at a lower altitude. The FAA suggested that it would improve the patterns and intervals to use multiple headings for departures. Up until that point, the control tower told each plane that after the departed they should turn straight north, or 360 degrees. The FAA recommendation was that those planes that aren’t going to the east coast, could turn to 340 degrees or 320 degrees, thus spreading out where the planes are going and breaking up the intervals over any one home. It took a while for the FAA to run the procedure through the paces and check to make sure it won’t have environmental effects worse than the problem they are trying to solve. That work has now been completed and the FAA will be implementing the divergent departure heading procedure starting July 23rd.
Noise Abatement Departure Procedure- In 1993, the FAA issued a directive to airports regarding departure procedures for airplanes to help with noise over residential areas very close to the airport. They allowed two different departure procedures, known as Close-in, providing reduced noise within 3.5 miles of the airport, and Distant, providing reduced noise farther from the airport. The MAC initially adopted the Close-in procedure for the north end of the parallel runways, which are where the flights over south Minneapolis originate. But in 2003, MAC took another look at the procedures and the MAC noise office developed a report that showed that if they used the distant departure profile on the parallel runways, it would slightly increase noise near the airport, but it was over homes that had already had the MAC noise mitigation done to them. And, the Distant procedure reduced noise further out, over areas that had not had the mitigation. The MAC has been using the distant departure procedure ever since then. Recently, because of the renewed noise complaints, the Noise Oversight Committee, asked MAC noise staff to take another look at these departure procedures and see if there would be a benefit to switching back to the Close-in procedure. The report developed by MAC noise staff concludes that with the more modern fleet that is flying out of MSP, that any difference in the departure procedures would be very minor and in fact, would actually increase noise very slightly.
Last updated May. 20, 2013