Forum Photo by Michael V. Cusenza
“The reality is—for those in my district—the constant bombardment of noise is unbearable,” Rep. Meng said.
By Forum Staff
More than two-dozen members of Congress recently requested that the Government Accountability Office study how the Federal Aviation Administration has considered community noise impacts while implementing the Next Generation Air Transportation System in major metropolitan areas such as Queens, Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) announced Tuesday.
Meng and 28 other members of Congress called for the review in a letter to U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro.
Meng also noted that NextGen is the FAA-led modernization of the nation’s air transportation system to increase the safety, efficiency, capacity, predictability, and resiliency of U.S. aviation. As part of the effort, which began in 2007, the FAA has introduced new flight procedures that use satellite-based navigation in eleven major metropolitan areas with complex air traffic patterns, which the agency calls “metroplexes.” Each of these projects involved significant changes to existing routes and procedures. For each of the completed projects in its Metroplex program, however, the FAA found that its proposed actions would not significantly affect the quality of human environment in the impacted metropolitan areas and would not result in significant noise impacts or reportable noise increases. Notwithstanding these findings, the new flight paths have caused communities to experience increased aircraft noise.
“The reality is—for those in my district—the constant bombardment of noise is unbearable. That is why I believe it is necessary for GAO to study this issue and provide insight into how communities are affected by NextGen,” Meng said.
The members that signed the letter asked that the GAO address specific questions regarding NextGen, including:
• How does the FAA consider noise impacts when implementing new routes as part of its Metroplex initiative? Is the FAA consistent in how it considers and reports on noise impacts of NextGen and new flight paths across each different Metroplex project?
• The FAA defines “significant increase in noise” as an increase in the Day-Night Average Sound Level of 1.5 decibels or more over noise sensitive areas at or above the DNL 65-decibels noise exposure level. Do the FAA’s criteria for whether changes in noise levels are considered significant sufficiently capture potential negative impacts? Given negative community response to new routes in areas where the FAA did not find significant impacts would result, should the FAA revise its current metrics or develop alternative metrics to the current DNL standard?
• Does the FAA measure and disclose noise impacts from changes to flight paths as adequately as it does noise impacts at airports?
• Has the FAA become more effective at disclosing noise impacts from route changes since it began implementing NextGen? Has the FAA changed how it addresses noise impacts in response to litigation and settlements over flight path changes or requests from Congress?
• How does the FAA communicate with the public and solicit and incorporate public input in planning and implementing its Metroplex initiative, including in developing new or modified arrival and departure procedures? Have the FAA’s practices been adequate in the view of aviation stakeholders and community members?
• How is the FAA measuring the adequacy of its public engagement and outreach when planning and implementing its Metroplex initiative?