Despite FAA plan, South Boulder Residents Remain Skeptical of DIA Plane Noise Solution
April 18, 2017
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  • South Boulder residents who have found themselves in the crosshairs of Denver International Airport’s departing plane noise found little solace in the Federal Aviation Administration’s newly unveiled plans aimed at mitigating its impact in the area, according to residents who attended a community workshop on Monday night.

    Many of those afflicted with the “constant noise coming from the sky,” as one person referred to it Monday, include residents spanning from Louisville up to the far western reaches of Boulder County, such as Nederland and Eldora.

    According to the FAA’s plans, the Denver Metroplex will move ground-based navigation to satellite and GPS-based navigation and from analog to digital communications.

    “From here, we will sit down and group the comments we get from residents tonight,” Mark Phipps, a senior manager with the FAA, said Monday. “We’re always going to get the comments that say something like, ‘make all the airplanes go away,’ but if we get specific suggestions we really try to work with them.

    “These procedures have been developed by people who live in these communities,” he added, “so we care about mitigating the impact here.”

    The project seeks to enhance safety, reduce carbon emissions and modernize procedures, Phipps said, as well as mitigating the noise by “deconflicting routes into and out of busy airports by creating more efficient and direct flight paths.”

    However, many of those in attendance on Monday — with some insisting that noisy planes have begun to fly closer to south Boulder residential areas and at a greater frequency than ever before — found little comfort in the plans outlined for the area.

    “Efficiency and safety remain the only two paradigms that the FAA considers as they develop new routes,” resident Pamela Brown said. “They don’t consider population, population impact or noise.”

    A procedural change that DIA and airports around the country made in 2013 — which standardized flight patterns and made it so that individual flights had to stick to much more rigid paths — is the crux of the issue many south Boulder residents now face. Planes have always flown over the south Boulder and Rocky Flats area, but their paths were more dispersed in the past.

    Neighbors said last month that they’ve counted up to 70 flights over Table Mesa on certain days.

    “While they were gently telling the citizens that attended that they would certainly look at their concerns,” Brown said, “there is absolutely no requirement that they do so.

    “Looking at the routes tonight, they have adjusted the footpath a bit south, it will still be flying right over us — flying over most of us that have been complaining. Therefore, their plan is basically taking what they have already done to us and not really fixing it.”

    The number of flights over south Boulder has roughly doubled since 2015, DIA Noise Abatement Manager Mike McKee told the Camera last month.

    A lull right around the time of the 2013 procedures — and a spike since then — has brought the issue of noise back to Boulder County residents in the line concentrated flight paths.

    “For the last few years, there have been far more flights,” south Boulder resident Gordon McCurry said. “They are more concentrated and in the late evening and at a higher frequency. They’ve never been pleasant but I’m willing to put up with flights during normal business hours.”

    According to McCurry, the uptick in airplane noise has “made life in south Boulder less enjoyable” in recent years.

    Earlier this year, citizens unveiled a plan of their own: the “South Boulder Departure Path TWEAK,” which aimed at shifting the NextGen path to uninhabited areas of Rocky Flats. The plan has begun to gain steam with local officials.

    “We have heard from Louisville residents, lodging noise complaints saying they have been impacted by the consolidation of air traffic in the narrow FOOOT light path,” Louisville Mayor Bob Muckle wrote in a letter addressed to the FAA national headquarters on Monday. “Flights have increased three times on this concentrated route over Boulder area from August 2014 to August 2016, resulting in 70 overflights per day.

    “By moving the flight path 5-6 miles south,” he added, “it would then be over uninhabited areas and would save airlines considerable time and fuel, estimated to be around 300 air miles a day, and roughly 110,000 air miles per year.”