Living near airport has its pluses, but neighbors want to know: can you quiet it down a bit?
Editor’s note: CNews in March published Steve Dodge’s story about noise in Concordia emanating from Portland International Airport. There wasn’t room for all the information writer Steve Dodge gathered.
So below is the rest of the story, in three parts:
- There’s good news this summer
- Nextdoor.com: neighbors have a thing or two to say about airport noise
- Port of Portland Q&A
There’s good news for summer
Jerry Gerspach, Port of Portland noise analyst, says there will be no construction this summer affecting the north-south “cross-wind” runway, where most cargo feeder flights over the neighborhood occur. The upshot is there should be no extra small cargo plane traffic over the neighborhood as there has been in past years.
To report excessive aircraft noise or to learn more about the port’s Noise Management Program, visit the Port of Portland’s website.
Nextdoor.com: neighbors have a thing or two to say about airport noise
Neighbors in Concordia and nearby neighborhoods were asked via the social media app Nextdoor.com for their thoughts on airplane noise coming from PDX. Here’s what they had to say:
Gayle Booher, East Alberta Concordia
I’ve lived here for 55 yrs. Love the military jets! I know I’m being protected when I hear them. I knew the airport was here when I moved to this location. You want to deal with NOISE, try TriMet. Every 15 min. Yes. I knew I was on a bus route when I moved here, but it was once an hr. 7am to 10pm and no Sun, Now it is every 15 min starting at 5:30 am and stopping at 2:30 am all week long. Take the jets over TriMet any day.
Patricia Canich, Concordia South
I’ve been in this neighborhood for 60 yrs and the airplane noises have never been an issue, since I know I live close to the airport and the military base. I choose to live here. I also love the the sound of the fighter jets. It’s freedom and makes me proud of our military.
Paul Carrier, Concordia South
As a point of reference 40 years ago those military jets (not the current F-15 but F-102 and F-101, both of which were much louder aircraft) would fly directly over the neighborhood at approximately 500 AGL. Also the large (Boeing 707 and 727) airliners would take off using the north south runway during the winter months. They also would be under 1000 AGL as they passed over the neighborhood.
Chris Quinn, Ainsworth Street Collective
Relativity. I love being near the airport. Folks text when they are landing and I can still beat them to the arrival curb. I appreciate the planning that went into sending most of the big planes over businesses when they are taking off and landing. I used to live on the bluffs of Daly City, near the SF airport, and those big planes took off right over my head. A friend once claimed she saw me in my back yard from the plane window. One thing though – my hearing is damaged from all those rock concerts….I am further east than the Fed Ex path. I’ve seen those small planes coming in one after another right at around 5 in the evening. Seems like the folks around 30th and Ainsworth are in that path.
Elizabeth Collins, Concordia South
I used to live two blocks from a train switching station off of Columbia Blvd in North Portland. You wanna hear loud? Holy cow. I frequently had to stop talking on the phone because of the noise. Anyway, I’m at 36th and Alberta Ct. and haven’t even noticed airplane noise (too far away?). The only annoying air traffic is the occasional helicopter, like the one that hovered over Killingsworth looking for a bear.
I can “sort of” tolerate the sound of our tax dollars sending fighter jets roaring overhead because it’s only every few months, for a few days and not at night. The cargo planes on the other hand are a constant annoyance. They start early (6 am? is there a schedule?) and run late, and since we live on Killingsworth near 42nd Avenue, they’re accelerating and decelerating noisily right overhead. Every half hour or so another one buzzes directly over us. I’ll be interested to see your article. Does FedEx have a schedule? Are there any regulations limiting its hours or noise level? I’m assuming not. Facts — real facts, that is — will be interesting to read. Thanks for taking this on!
We’ve lived in this house for 41 years. When someone moves into this neighborhood, they need to realize that they live close to the airport. It’s been a boon for us as I used to travel quite a bit for work. The airport noise doesn’t bother us too much. In addition, the airport has made strides to reduce the noise from smaller planes by moving the flight paths so they don’t use the same route all the time. So sometimes we have planes very close to the house, and other times they are blocks away. The noise doesn’t bother us unless the planes get super low (probably lower than they’re supposed to fly) and the doors and windows are open. We are near 31st and Killingsworth.
In the summer when these FedEx or small commuter planes fly very low many evenings over my house it is really disruptive to peace and quiet. If I am having dinner outside, visiting with friends or trying to work in the yard it becomes even more upsetting as there may be planes every few minutes. This does not happen in the winter. Why can’t they use the same flight pattern in summer to avoid flying over residential housing?
The situation was helped a bit a few years ago when they started to fan the flights so they were not flying over the same houses day after day after day as I was one of those houses. I hope that policy remains in place or I may have to move. For reference, I live on the one house from the corner of NE 27th and Jarrett. Thanks for asking about this as it is a neighborhood livability problem.
Ed Hesse, East Columbia
I’ve lived in Concordia and East Columbia and I love the planes, they are beautiful! We live in a world of sound and it helps to let me know I’m alive and well. That said, I was so happy when DirectTV came out with a pause button so I could pause the TV when a plane flew over!
Dena Hutto, Concordia South
We heard (can’t remember whether it was neighborhood news or Oregonian, which used to do some dedicated local reporting) that an agreement had been reached with the airport to route some of the “box-haulers” over other neighborhoods instead of directly over us. This was 3-5 years ago. Did that actually happen? I don’t notice them as much now as in the past. I do notice when they fly lower than the regulated height – and air wonder just how far they are from my Doug fir! Anyway, 2 issues to check into. In general, the airport noise is not as much of an issue as I thought it might be when we moved here. Seldom jets, which I appreciate.
Laura Dyer, Concordia South
First, thanks for writing an article on this topic! While my 18 month old loves the sound of airplanes (it tells you how many are going through our neighborhood that this was the first sign language word he learned), I feel like the noise and the frequency seemed to have increased in recent years and I don’t love that airplanes are flying close over my house and Alberta Park every ten minutes. It also makes it hard to leave windows open for children in the summer, given that the plans continue past bedtime. I’d love to know if the frequency has increased, whether there are options for moving the flight path and who to contact to influence the decision. Thanks!
Amanda Lerch, Concordia North
I am at 35th and Rosa parks and the small FedEx planes seem to fly below regulation altitude. I actually don’t know what the aviation laws are but the planes come surprisingly close to the tall fir tree in my back yard. We live on the hill.
Danielle McHugh, Woodlawn
I live near to Woodlawn Elementary. I knew full well what the noises were here before I bought my house (research and rented nearby before I purchased): train crossing, Lombard, occasional airport reroutes. I find the sounds exciting and comforting. My house is small and there is certainly rattling, but it’s superficial and it doesn’t bother me+2adults at all. I enjoy seeing. Of note, non/kid house and the airport is close. The real “torture” by comparison is in Vancouver at the 2/3 point between I5 & I205 on 14….:you can’t hear your own thoughts. The NE is rarely:occasionally affected. It’s an airport.
John Nurse-Mayes, Ainsworth Street Collective
The small planes suck! The air force jets have rattled things off our walls and shelves and woken our new born with the noise. I have called and complained but have never heard back. Those guys are not making friends in our house. We are at 59th and Simpson.
Carlene Plew, East Columbia
I too live by the airport you must have known it was there when you bought RIGHT??? It is better now than when I moved here about 47 years ago as it now goes down the river mostly. It did go directly over my house. I live 13th and Marine Dr and they land on 33rd about one mile.I honor the military noise and yes my pictures all hang crooked and aren’t we lucky to have them risk their life for us
Donna Quinones, East Columbia
I’m on 13th and Marine Drive. Being near the airport sometimes I can really see the people in their seats when it’s coming in for landing. We knew the airport was just down the road when we purchased our home 10 years ago. We pay no attention to the noise now. We’ve learned to just stop talking if we’re outside when military jets go by.
Heather Gramp, Concordia North
As was mentioned there was/is an agreement with the Port of Portland to rotate flight paths to swing over different parts of NE like Vernon Woodlawn Cully etc and vary it by day. I’d be interested in reading about an update to that agreement. Is it still in place? Do planes vary by day or by hour etc? I’ve thought that info would be useful if I’m planning an outdoor get together. Might do it on an off day. Otherwise, I feel like they are no more bothersome than a lawnmower. The jets, far more disruptive, for me.
I live on 29th Ave. – 4 homes south of Ainsworth for four years. I’ve noticed more plane noise this last year… starting at 5’ish in the morning. It sounds like planes on the runway ready to take off. The Fed Ex planes fly very low when approaching the airport. Between the noise from the planes and coal trains at nite, we’re thinking of moving even though I love this neighborhood and my home,. As I write to you now with windows closed and the rain I’m hearing the jets taking off. I dread to have this noise pollution amplified when Spring arrives and my windows are opened. Feel free to call me if you need any other info, Thanks for writing this article.
Geoff Sosebee, East Cully
Our house is on Alberta, and as such we can practically see planes land on the tarmac. For us it isn’t an issue, sure we can hear them on occasion, but as Laura pointed out, we knew the airport was there when we bought the house.
Tim Egan, Concordia North
I agree with John, I find the military jets to be more obnoxious than the small cargo planes. Also on par with the military jets are the smaller turbo prop planes from the airlines. They sound as if they are taking off from my driveway!
Very, very annoying. Specially in summer when private flights increase. These flights used to take a different approach but now come right over our house. There is no doubt in my mind it has adversely affected the value of our home. Also there is one flight…early morning…that takes off from the main runway that is 300% louder than all the others. Military transport? Old plane? Who knows? But it wakes us almost every day.
Bjorn Warloe, East Cully
I never really notice the planes besides the military jets. It would be nice if they didn’t fly them at weird hours, but I suppose they want to train for night flying. Just a side note because I found that I did get woken up by the military jets sometimes at night I bought a white noise maker. It has greatly improved my sleep so if anyone is bothered by noise at night I highly recommend them. The brand I have is Lectrofan.
I have two comments:
- It was my understanding that several years ago the port changed the flight path of many (most? all?) air traffic due to construction/reorganization at PDX. I fully expected this to have been wrapped up by now and wonder if it has been or if we are simply stuck with the ‘new’ flight patterns?
- When I find the cargo/FedEx air traffic too loud, I simply say, “Hey, it must be 5:15! How great that I can tell the time by the Fed Ex plane!” or “Hey, there’s my Amazon order!” A little levity seems to help. 🙂
When I moved into the neighborhood six years ago I was aware that my house would be pretty much directly under the “commuter” and small plane traffic. They do literally fly right over my house. I was a bit concerned about it but after living here I’d have to say that for the most part it doesn’t bother me when they fly at the appropriate altitude. The only time it does bother me is when the planes fly too low – and, I mean, REALLY low sometimes! I hope that in your article you will be able to articulate what their altitude requirement is over our neighborhood. And, likewise if there is a way to identify and report those flying too low. I find it’s usually the small private planes that seem to do this, not the FedEx or other commercial small planes. Thanks so much for addressing this interesting topic.
Aleta Worthey, East Cully
I too love the sound of the jets. It is the sound of our freedom. My cousin was in the Air Force and they always said that as one took off. I am about 2 miles south of the airport and never hear the planes anymore. Guess I have just gotten used to them so don’t bother me at all. Also I have heard that they do night flights with the jets at night for training but never after 10 and usually announce when they will be doing it on the news.
Aircraft noise Q&A
Questions by Steve Dodge, CNews writer and Concordia neighborhood resident
Answers by Kama Simonds, aviation media relations manager, Port of Portland
Q: Why do small cargo planes (primarily FedEx) fly as low as 150 to 200 feet on their landing approach? Isn’t this dangerous over a residential area?
A: All arrival (and departure) paths are designed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for safety and to be free of any obstructions. Aircraft will approach the runway on a 3 degree glide slope. This means they are descending at a rate of 300 feet per mile. For a Concordia resident who lives 1 mile from the end of the crosswind runway, the aircraft’s altitude will be at, or very near, 300 feet. If one lives 5 miles away from the end of the runway, the aircraft altitude would be 1500 feet.
Q: How many cargo planes landed on the north/south (cross-wind) runway in 2016? How does that compare to past years?
Q: Why do small cargo planes sometimes arrive for landing in bunches, with several following nearly the same route?
A: Cargo feeders typically depart PDX in the morning between 5AM-7AM. They spend the day stopping at numerous airports throughout the region picking up packages. They will typically arrive back at PDX between 5PM-7PM to transfer the packages to a larger jet aircraft which will deliver them to across the country. Cargo Feeders operate in and out of PDX throughout the day but tend to only operate from the crosswind runway during peak traffic times.
Q: How many total noise complaints does the port receive each year related to aircraft noise? Cargo planes specifically?
A: In 2016, PDX had a total of 1,656 complaints from 195 households related to aircraft noise. In 2016, PDX had 575 complaints from 23 households related to cargo feeders. Of the 575 cargo feeder complaints, 523 came from 3 households, 320 from a single household in northeast Portland, and 3 came from the Concordia neighborhood.
Q: I understand the port regularly measures aircraft noise. Can you share some of those figures, especially as it relates to the Concordia neighborhood?
A: We currently collect aircraft noise data with fixed noise monitors located in communities surrounding PDX. These monitors run 24/7. One of these monitors is located on the Concordia University campus. Last month, January 2017, we recorded 126 arrivals to the crosswind runway with an average decibel level of 73 (Leq). [This is comparable to a truck driving by your house or standing near a vacuum cleaner.] Noise levels for individual aircraft noise events will vary depending on several factors including atmospheric conditions and proximity to the microphone. Our system stores both noise data from the monitor and flight track data provided by the FAA. It then compares the time stamps of both the noise event and the flight track, as well as the proximity of the flight track to the monitor, and matches these events. If there is a noise event but no flight track it won’t make a match. For example, a crowd cheering at a sporting event on the Concordia campus likely wouldn’t be picked up by the noise monitor.
Q: Is there any way to quiet incoming small cargo planes?
A: The port conducted a cargo feeder study between 2005-2007. The main purpose of the study was to find ways to reduce noise impacts of aircraft using the crosswind runway. Here is a summary of the study’s update, conducted in 2008.
Q: Occasionally there is propeller plane noise heard in Concordia from aircraft on the ground. What is going on with these planes and why aren’t they in a noise hangar? Who is responsible for this noise — Boeing, FedEx, the National Guard?
A: The noise that is occasionally heard in Concordia from aircraft on the ground is most likely the prop noise being generated by an engine run up. Engine run ups occur for two reasons:
- a pre-flight run up (just prior to departure, the pilot is required to run the engine at high RPMs for a short duration [1 min or less] to insure proper response from the performance indicators in the cockpit or
- a maintenance engine run up (after maintenance is performed on an aircraft engine, the pilot is required to run the engine at high RPMs to insure that the problem was resolved.
The port constructed a Ground Run up Enclosure (GRE) in 2001 specifically to reduce community noise impacts from maintenance run ups. Jet aircraft and large turboprop aircraft are required to perform maintenance run ups inside this facility because of their high noise exposure levels. Smaller propeller aircraft produce much lower noise levels and are not required to use the GRE.
Q: Has the port ever considered building a sound wall to protect residential areas from noise or a plan to subsidize residential insulation to mitigate the impacts of aircraft noise on the neighborhood?
A: The noise office at PDX was established in the late 1970s and after meetings with local stakeholders, our first noise abatement program was introduced in 1983. We have reviewed und updated our program several times over the years. We continue to meet every other month with the Citizen Noise Advisory Committee (CNAC) to keep up on residential noise concerns and to discuss ways to reduce noise impacts to local communities. These meetings are open to the public.
We are always open to ideas and welcome input from neighbors to our program and at CNAC meetings (next one is March 9 at 5:30pm). Over the years we have considered many mitigation options and one of CNAC’s roles is to stay current on what best practices exist at US airports, and around the globe. Every mitigation strategy comes with pros and cons; in the case of sound walls their effectiveness can be limited by the surrounding terrain topography and the fact that aircraft very quickly get above the wall height. Under federal law, the FAA can only support residential insulation programs in specific circumstances, none of which apply at PDX.
We are also happy to talk in more detail on this or any of the other above topics at neighborhood meetings or individually if readers or groups would like additional information.