Airport Noise Riles Residents

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By: 
Kevin Murphy

MIDDLETON–Complaints about noise from airplanes using the Middleton Municipal Airport, and explanations for it received a thorough airing at last week’s Airport Commission meeting.

Take offs and landings have greatly increased to more than 38,000 annually during the past few years creating more noise for nearby residents and increasing their concerns.

Two residents said that after making a complaint about airplane noise, planes flew low and loud over their property in retaliation.

A yellow airplane and a white Cirrus plane with blue markings were identified as the planes that have allegedly buzzed houses near the airport in retaliation for noise complaints.

Airport Manager Rich Morey said he hadn’t heard about a problem with the white Cirrus before and there were about five yellow-painted airplanes hangered at the airport. 

“We’ll look into this,” he said.

Also, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and not airport has jurisdiction over planes once they are airborne.

“That’s a weak answer,” said commission member Cynthia Richson. “You have persuasive power.”

Morey’s response also didn’t satisfy residents who said all pilots need to be told to “knock it off” and be considerate of the residents near the airport.

If Morey can identify an offending aircraft, he said he would share the complaint with Capitol Flight, a training and plane brokerage firm at the airport, or a hanger owner associated with the plane.

Kyle Larson, who lives within a quarter-mile of the main runway’s noise sensitive area, said “Those two planes have been complained about enough.”

Morey defended the pilots saying the “vast majority bend over backwards to reduce the noise footprint. But living in the airport area, noise will happen.” 

Also, jet aircraft taking off are probably using a flight plan filed with the FAA which mandates flying straight out and climbing as quickly as possible, which, unfortunately takes them over residential areas to the east and west of the airport, he said.

“There’s nothing we can do about that,” Commission Chair John Hallick said.

The airport’s voluntary noise abatement procedures established in 2005 calls for planes to make a righthand turn after taking off from east to west from the main runway to avoid residential areas. That procedure could be revisited for improvement, Hallick said. The FAA could also change the approach planes make on instrument landings. 

Steve Chafe, who said he was a commercial pilot, pointed out that the loop pilots make while practicing instrument takeoffs and landings can put them as low as 400 feet over some houses even five miles west of the airport. 

“When told it (fly overs) goes on hour after hour…” said Hallick.

“You’d know if you lived there,” Richson said interrupting.

“That’s why some planes fly so low over Bridal Ridge (Pass),” said Mark Opitz, City Planning and Zoning Administrator and city staff liaison to the commission.

Residents of Enchanted Valley and Whispering Winds and other neighborhoods west of the airport also complained at the meeting about airplane noise.

The airport’s noise telephone reporting system came under attack from residents as cumbersome to use and having failed to produce any results.

“There’s a long voice mail message at the beginning. It’s an archaic system….”Can’t we have a website for collecting that information,” Richson said.

The phone system (608-836-6473) has received 38 complaints during the past seven month plus other complaints have been made directly to Morey or the city.

To be effective, noise complaints need to include the aircraft’s registration number, which is displayed on the tail, the date and time of the event and the caller’s name and address.

However, even Morey acknowledged it is difficult to read the tail number on a moving airplane.

“Record the complaint and we’ll do what whatever we can,” Hallick said.

Larson asked it the complaints were being forwarded to the FAA and Hallick said the agency needs very specific information.

However, the FAA’s official complaint form doesn’t require the tail number, said commission member Luke Fuszard, who did an Internet search during the discussion. Instead, they seek the complainant’s contact information, date and time of the event, a description of the event and of the plane, and if it is a repeat occurrence.

After two hours of discussion the commission approved a motion to make it easier to complain about airplane noise by:

• Establishing a website to report noise complaints.

• Changing the telephone complaint line to allow prior callers to skip over the lengthy introduction.

• Installing the complaint phone number on a road sign near the airport.

• Including complaint data and responses in the airport manager’s monthly report.

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