FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q. Why does it seem that more aircraft are flying over or closer to my home?
A. Simple answer is because they most likely are, which is the result of the FAA's implementation of its new national program called NextGen. NextGen calls for all airlines to follow designated GPS-computed flight paths in and out of all Metropolitan Airports (MetroPlex). Planes now follow FAA-designated flight patterns rather than fanning out along a variety of routes. The impact of NextGen's "superhighways in the sky" has been significant for communities beneath and near these new flight corridors. Certain neighborhoods within Orange County are taking the brunt of the impact for all landings, and particularly for departures.
Q. What is NextGen?
A. According to the the FAA's website, "NextGen is the FAA-led modernization of our nation's air transportation system. Its goal is to increase the safety, efficiency, capacity, predictability, and resiliency of American aviation." Critics of NextGen believe when the FAA was designing the safety aspect of its transportation system that it failed to take into consideration the safety of those on the ground with respect to noise and pollution induced health hazards created by the “Perfect Storm” of concentrated flight paths combined with lower flying aircraft. NextGen has further been criticized for favoring the airlines' bottom line - in an Associated Press/ABC report that appeared prior to implementation of the program, it was stated that the airlines were expected to contribute $15 billion toward the $35 billion NextGen program and further projected that NextGen could save the airlines more than $10 billion annually by 2025 by lowering fuel consumption through flying shorter, more direct GPS-guided routes. This is great news for the airlines, but not for those living beneath or near the new concentrated flight paths.
Q: Why is it that airplanes flying over my home seem louder than ever before?
A: Because they are no longer using the noise abatement procedures once used by commercial aircraft departing from John Wayne Airport, they are flying lower, and since the implementation of NextGen their departures are closer together and they are flying in the "superhighways in the sky" thus creating more concentrated noise levels and they are now thrusting their engines over our communities as opposed to over the ocean, as they once did.
Q: Why does it appear that airplanes are flying lower?
A: Simple answer is because they are. Over the past number of years airlines have found a loophole in the original 1985 Settlement Agreement between the City of Newport Beach, the County of Orange and two Newport Beach-based citizen advocacy groups (SPON and AWG). Through the agreement, noise restrictions were established that allowed commercial aircraft to reach a certain number of decibels before issuance of a noise infraction. However, no stipulations were placed in the agreement that took into account "what if" aircraft became quieter and more developed with the passage of time. Therefore, today's commercial aircraft can fly at a much lower altitude while still flying under the noise threshold established in the 1980's.
Q: Did the FAA perform environmental impact studies prior to implementing NextGen?
A: This is a point of contention that has resulted in several lawsuits and the development of numerous community grassroots organizations throughout the United States. Orange County is not alone! Many believe the FAA provided inadequate notice and little opportunity for communities to oppose NextGen. People living in the affected communities impacted by the increased noise and pollution from low flying aircraft vehemently oppose the FAA's conclusion of "no significant impact" on their lives, property values and their quality of life.
Q. What is being done to challenge the implementation of NextGen and lower flying aircraft?
A. CAANP is working closely with Newport Beach City Council members, Kevin Muldoon, Jeff Herdman, and Diane Dixon, along with City Manager Dave Kiff, to ensure residents have a place at the table in dealing with the FAA, air carriers, and other government officials. As a result of our combined efforts, the City of Newport Beach has taken the following actions:
Hired a PR firm to launch a campaign to create a concise message from citizens to the air carriers, the FAA, and government officials;
Hired a firm to conduct research into noise levels and takeoff procedures; and
Enlisted the services of a lobbyist to work work with us and local, state, and federal government officials and representatives to implement the changes we are requesting.
Q. What changes need to be made?
A. We simply want commercial aircraft departing from JWA to fly at the safest maximum altitude and as quietly as possible on a flight path that follows the contours of the Newport Beach Back Bay. This procedure of ascending at the highest possible rate with engine cutbacks and limited thrust until well over the ocean will alleviate noise concerns for the vast majority of Orange County residents.
Q. Can these changes be implemented?
A. Absolutely! In the past, commercial aircraft departing from JWA were required to follow a departure procedure that included flying as high as safely possible after take-off in order to comply with the noise ordinances established by the 1985 Settlement Agreement. Therefore, “it has been done, it can be done and it should be done”. All we are asking is that commercial aircraft fly as quietly and pollutant-free as possible and be the best neighbors they can be.
Q. What can I do to help?
A. Join forces with us and get informed, stay informed and let your voice be heard. Read our website, write letters to County, State and Federal officials, to the airlines and to the FAA requesting that departing aircraft fly at the safest maximum altitude and as quietly an possible. Also, follow our daily posts on FaceBook and check out our "Take Action" tab to learn about the specific actions you can take to help reduce noise and pollution emanating from John Wayne Airport. The communities around the country that have been the most organized and the most vocal are getting results and we can, too!
Q: Just how loud are the planes flying over and near my home?
A: This depends on the location of your home, the altitude of the planes and the quality of your monitoring device. Private homeowners, along with the readings from the County's positioned "professional" noise monitors near and below the JWA departure path in Newport Beach, have reported planes overhead regularly generate numbers well in excess of 90dB.
Q: Why do I have difficulty talking on the phone or hearing my TV when a plane flies over or near my home?
A: This is better understood if you consider the decibel levels of common activities: a whisper: 30dB; average quiet home: 40dB; average quiet street: 50dB; average conversational speech: 60-65dB; average TV or radio: 70 dB; and average busy city traffic: 85 dB. As stated above, the average noise generated by commercial aircraft departing from JWA in some of our most impacted neighborhoods exceeds the average decibel levels of many of our common activities, including talking.
Q: How is aircraft noise generated from JWA measured?
A: Orange County has a noise monitoring system established pursuant to the settlement of a 1985 lawsuit filed by Newport Beach against Orange County, the owner and operator of JWA. This system is comprised of ten monitoring stations, seven of which are situated at different points along the departure route that was in use at the time that the settlement was reached. Orange County uses CNEL (a 24-hour measurement) and SENEL (a single event noise equivalent level). JWA prepares quarterly noise reports using both CNEL and SENEL measurements. According to the most recent JWA quarterly noise report, using the CNEL 24-hour average measurement (even though JWA is on a 16-hour curfew schedule), departing planes range from 56-68dB. According to the same report, using the SENEL (single noise event level), departing planes range from 80 - 99 dB. To view the most recently-posted JWA quarterly noise report, click here. Recently an airport official announced that JWA hadn't issued a notice of noise violation to a commercial carrier since 2006. Please register your noise complaints. For help in doing this, refer to the "Take Action" and "Noise Complaints" tabs on this website.
Q: What is the 1985 Settlement Agreement?
A: In 1985, the City of Newport Beach, County of Orange, the Airport Working Group (AWG), and Stop Polluting Our Newport (SPON) entered into a Settlement Agreement to resolve a lawsuit filed by Newport Beach against the County of Orange, the owner and operator of JWA. The 1985 Agreement established the following:
Strict noise limitations on the types of aircraft permitted to use JWA
A nighttime curfew
Limitations on the number of average daily commercial departures which can occur at JWA
Since entering into the 1985 Agreement, there have been two amendments that have, among other things, (1) extended the nighttime curfew to 12/31/35 and (2) increased maximum passenger limitations.
Q: Is the increased noise caused by lower flying aircraft dangerous to my health?
A: There have been many studies regarding sound levels and when they become dangerous to the health of those who are exposed to them. You can read about this on our website, both on our Home page and on our Research page. Much of the research indicates that sounds above 85 dB are harmful, depending on how long and how often you are exposed to them and whether you wear hearing protection, such as earplugs or earmuffs. The World Health Organization establishes toxic noise pollution at a much lower number. Studies have connected excessive noise exposure to heart, sleep, stress, hearing and cognitive issues.
Q: Is the increased black dust I find in and about my home since the flight patterns were changed dangerous to my health?
A: There have been many studies regarding the dangers of particulate pollution from airplanes to those who are regularly exposed to them. You can read about this on our website, both on our Home page and our Research page. Some studies conclude that the particulates created by aircraft exhaust can worsen lung conditions such as asthma and COPD, and also contribute to the development of heart disease. Other studies connect particulate pollution to other potential health concerns, including cancer.