Naples Airport seeking FAA approval for several noise abatement measures: What to know

There's a lot up in the air for Naples Airport right now — and not just planes.

The Naples Airport Authority (NAA) recently sent the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) a full report detailing the airport's noise and the impact it has on the surrounding community. In the report, airport officials listed measures they believe will abate noise. Now, they're awaiting approval.

Naples Daily News met with Naples Airport Community Engagement Manager Zac Burch to break down the report into simpler terms.

Noise complaints: Does Naples Airport have problems with noise?

Naples Airport received around 800 noise complaints last fiscal year.

Families and individuals that live in neighborhoods around the airport say they're unable to be outside during the peak flight hours because of the noise. Some even say they're awakened in the middle of the night because of loud aircraft overhead.

"We feel like we are living under an airport runway; it began around 6:15 this morning and has continued since. We have lost count as to how many flights have gone over our house and the surrounding area," Maureen Lewis wrote in her noise complaint from Jan. 23. "Most unfortunate way to begin our day."

Naples Airport photographed, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021,  in Naples, Fla.
Naples Airport photographed, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021, in Naples, Fla.

What is a noise study?

The NAA began conducting a $2 million Airport Noise Compatibility study in 2019 to investigate the impact of noise in and around the airport. It's also referred to as a Part 150 study because the FAA created the noise program under 14 CFR Part 150 of the 1979 Aviation Safety and Noise Abatement Act.

The noise study is broken up into two parts: measuring and recommending. During the first half of the study, the NAA measured noise at and around the airport to see what area the noise affects. In June, the NAA completed the second half of the study which included locals and officials coming together to create solutions for the airport.

The NAA held open houses for residents to attend and pitch in their ideas to reduce airport noise. They also offered an online platform for people to submit their suggestions. At the end of the allotted time, airport officials summarized the suggestions into one report to send to the FAA.

More: Naples Airport Authority holds hearing for noise reduction suggestions. What we know

Final report: What could the FAA approve?

The NAA sent their finalized report with findings and suggestions to the FAA a few months ago and are awaiting a response. The report included several initiatives that could lessen airport noise if implemented.

"It's important to understand that all of these things are incremental in their benefit," Naples Airport Authority Executive Director Chris Rozansky said. "It doesn't suddenly mean that people won't notice aircraft anymore. The number of aircraft that we have here is largely a function of the economy and the popularity of Naples. But we're making every investment and spending a lot of time and effort doing everything we possibly can."

Here's a breakdown of the initiatives the FAA could approve or deny when officials respond to the Naples Airport noise study report:

  1. Noise abatement measures

    1. Implement procedures to increase glide slope to Runway End 5: This measure is part of a larger initiative that would include all runways eventually, but this specific measure applies to Runway End 5 only. A glide slope is the optimized path for an aircraft to descend and land.Right now, pilots descend at a 3 degree glide slope. Airport officials say if the glide slope is increased to 3.5, the noise contours will decrease and 11 less households will experience excessive noise.

  2. Land use measures

    1. Create a residential sound insulation program: This program would offer homes within the established noise contours, or noise bubble, sound insulation like impact windows and doors. Burch says it's important to note that not all households that hear airport noise are actually within the established noise bubble."Those homes [inside the noise contours] could be eligible for funding for sound insulation," Burch said. "In exchange for that, you sign, essentially, an agreement that you're accepting this money with the understanding that you live in that sort of noise sensitive area."

    2. Encourage comprehensive planning; consider amendments to zoning and building codes: The NAA is asking the city of Naples not to build new homes where airport noise is known to be. This initiative can be done without FAA approval, but the NAA is seeking FAA support as a means to show credibility when presenting the item to the city.

    3. Purchase avigation easements: Burch explained that this initiative would allow the Naples Airport to purchase the right to fly over certain areas in exchange for no complaints from the homeowners in the areas. Avigation refers to navigation of airplanes.

  3. Program management measures

    1. Monitor implementation of NCP measures: This means the airport will make sure the noise-reduction measures are monitored thoroughly.

    2. Design and implement an enhanced "Fly Quiet" program: The Naples Airport has an existing "Fly Quiet" program but wants to make it better. "It's our voluntary curfew, it's all the branding we do in promotion of it, it's on our business cards," Burch said. "But we are looking at other things and ways to enhance it." He says the airport is currently looking into ways to incentivize pilots to not violate the voluntary flight curfew, such as rewards.

    3. Monitor flight tracks and activity trends: Burch says the airport is monitoring what times have the most traffic and officials want to find ways to spread out the flights rather than having them all within the same time frame.

    4. Continue purchase and installation of NOMS: The airport is already in the process of purchasing and installing noise monitors so people can see an accurate reading of when and where excessive noise occurs at the airport. NOMS stands for Noise and Operations Monitoring Systems.

    5. Monitor and determine need for NEM (noise exposure maps) and/or NCP update: This item is to monitor when the airport needs to conduct a new noise study. NCP stands for Noise Compatibility Program."That's certainly not something that's going to happen anytime soon," Burch said, as the most recent noise study wrapped up this year.

    6. Continue community education and outreach.

All of the items above will receive input from the FAA, whether it be approval, denial, or general support.

Final report: What else is in it?

Not all noise projects the airport is pursuing fall within the constraints of the Part 150 study. For an initiative to qualify as part of the official noise study, airport officials must prove that the initiative can decrease noise in the measured noise contours.

But the airport officials included several noise initiatives they're working on apart from the noise study in the final report to get them on the FAA's radar. Eventually, these initiatives will be presented to the FAA for approval.

  1. Noise abatement measures

    1. Implement OPD procedures to all runway ends: Right now, pilots land their aircraft by gradually decreasing altitude in stages where they decrease altitude and stay at that level for a certain amount of time before decreasing again. OPD stands for Optimized profile descents and helps reduce noise and increase fuel efficiency."From a noise perspective, he's lowering his power because he's coming down and then he's revving up because he needs to maintain there," Burch said. "You're hearing this stair step of noise."The proposed measure would have pilots bring in their aircraft at a consistent low-power glide instead.

    2. Implement procedures to increase glide slope to Runway End 23 and Runway 14/32: This initiative is the same as the noise abatement measure being evaluated by the FAA in the previous section, except it's for more than just Runway End 5.

    3. Modify 2,000-foot hold down: Currently, all aircraft must hold at 2,000 feet after taking off before gaining altitude. This initiative would increase the hold."We think that, especially with the newness and the performance of most of the aircraft that operate here, this 2000 feet keeps aircraft unnecessarily low and that creates an unnecessary higher amount of noise," Burch said. "Whereas if we could clear them to 3,000, 4,000, 5,000, any amount that you get higher, will decrease noise."This measure is also referred to as "Higher Faster" and Burch said it's pretty universally supported by both pilots and the community.

    4. Promote voluntary use of NBAA noise abatement departure procedures: The National Business Aviation Association has developed certain noise abatement departure procedures for pilots. Naples Airport officials want to encourage their pilots to adopt these procedures when possible to keep noise down.While airport officials don't need FAA approval for this measure. Burch said it would be great to have their support.

    5. Increase use of the crosswind runway: Burch said over the years, Runway 523 has seen more traffic than Runway 1432 because Runway 523 usually works better with the wind direction in the area. But airport officials want more pilots to use Runway 1432 to lessen traffic on the more popular runway and decrease the amount of flights causing noise for the homes at the end of Runway 523.

    6. Shift Goodlette-Frank Road departure corridor east and create a "golf course corridor": Currently all northbound flights fly over neighborhoods on their way up. Airport officials are looking into shifting those flights slightly east to go over golf courses instead. This is an initiative airport officials are currently designing and will present to the FAA at a later time.

    7. Route south and eastbound departures from Runway 23 down the bay: This initiative would route around 1,000 south and eastbound flights per year down the bay instead of over residential areas currently affected by noise like Old Naples. The project, called "Down the Bay," wouldn't necessarily abate noise. Instead, it would move it from one area to another. The NAA already had a flight procedure consultant come in and complete a feasibility analysis on this measure to see if it could be done safely and efficiently. Burch said the consultant concluded that Down the Bay could be done safely, which is the FAA's biggest priority.Right now, officials are designing this project and eventually they'll present it to the FAA for approval.

  2. Land use measures

    1. Support local government efforts to institute real estate disclosures: Airport officials want the city to disclose to potential buyers that certain homes are in the middle of flight paths before they decide to buy.This measure does not need FAA approval, but airport officials wanted the FAA to be aware.

    2. Encourage adopting alternative to 5-year DNL 60 for land use planning purposes: Right now, the local government only needs to consider the existing official noise contours when coming up with solutions for excessive noise. However, the noise contours don't include all homes affected by noise. This measure asks the local government to consider more than just the homes inside the noise bubble when addressing noise struggles.This initiative doesn't need FAA approval, but officials included it in the report to keep the FAA in the loop with local action.

    3. Investigate feasibility of relocating Naples Municipal Airport: Airport officials hired a consultant in June to complete an airport feasibility study that would weigh the pros and cons of moving the airport. Once the research is complete, the NAA will evaluate whether it would be beneficial to relocate the airport.

None of these measures will be approved or denied by the FAA in the coming months. Some of them will be designed and presented to the FAA at a later date for approval. Others are only in the report to make the FAA aware that they're happening.

Timeline: What comes next?

The FAA will send an official response to Naples Airport officials in the fall. The response will include feedback on the proposed measures and whether they can be implemented or not.

Once the NAA receives approval, they'll design the measures, which could take another year.

Burch says the measures approved by the FAA won't be implemented until fall 2025 at the earliest.

This article originally appeared on Naples Daily News: Naples Airport seeking FAA approval for many noise abatement measures