Airport Noise Lies at the Highest Levels

An article published Friday August 8 in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune publicized untrue and misleading statements by Northwest Airlines' top executives, Chairman Richard Anderson and President Doug Steenland. The article was written by the airline reporter Liz Fedor, who is not as knowledgea ble about airport noise issues as the MAC reporter. The executives were able to "spin" noise terms and present their position favorably by mistating their "line" as facts that the reporter did not dispute.

How did language denying Airport Improvement Funds for noise mitigation got into the conference committee report? Steenland said "We don't control that process." There is reliable evidence that it was passed to Senator Lott (R, Mississippi) by a Northwest Airlines lobbyist. A Northwest Airlines employee bragged about it; it was witnessed by a disinterested party, and a spokesperson for Senator Lott acknowledged it was discussed with Northwest Airlines, and additional flights in Mississippi were traded.

What change would be a "major policy shift" as characterized by Anderson? Reduced 65 DNL areas as mapped in 1992 for 1996 depended on Northwest Airlines' projected retirement of many noisy aircraft before 1996 and less growth in flights using MSP. There is also evidence that the 1996 eligibility contours were based on an improper runway use plan. The local plan was to insulate areas based on some map discussed with the City of Minneapolis in 1995-96 &Mac246; later these areas were characterized by MAC staff as "corresponding to the official 1996 map areas between 65 DNL and 60 DNL contours." FAA ruled it could grant AIP/PFC funds for this use. Undoing that was Northwest's purpose because it makes the monies more likely to be spent on improvements directly benefitting Northwest.

"Every Church and school within the 65 [decibel range] has been insulated" according to Anderson. This statement is a continuation of Northwest's policy to mislead the public and elected officials about noise abatement and operations at MSP. Northwest uses its dominant position at MSP, its political connections, and its daily contact with MAC staff to mislead reporters, elected officials, and appointed airport Commissioners that the 65 DNL contour is a valid measure of noise intensity on the ground rather than projected flight noise based on false assumptions, incomplete or over-simplified computations, and manipulation of both input to and use of the Integrated Noise Model and the graphical rendering programs. At least one school is so near the 70 DNL contour line that a 1% error in the percent of noisy aircraft, or the number of overflights by Stage II planes, or a different take-off profile input would have put it in the 70-75 DNL. As it is, many more overflights of 90 to 100 db peak intensity occur there everyday than were used for 1996 maps.

Anderson says "We have operated very responsibly with respect to the whole issue of noise insulation" at MSP. Northwest Airlines interfered with several attempts to revise the1996 contours, even though the FAA rules, the Final EIS, and the Noise Control Plan approved in 1994 all specify updates at least every five years or when operations indicate a change in noise exposure likely affected the contours. In any event, the 1996 65 DNL contours still in use as eligibility criteria for noise mitigation are not a "standard" and "long-standing" was not intended to refer to FAR 150, but to the actual noise exposure map drawn using unaudited projections in 1992 or 1993. The standard is that planned target-year noise abatement, such as retiring the noisiest airplanes (Stage I or Stage II engines), is assumed when 70 and 65 DNL eligibility areas are modeled. "Non-compliant" operations &Mac246; extra-noisy flights &Mac246; are taken into account when the target-year maps become the base-year maps. The "responsible" thing for Northwest Airlines would be to either retire noisy aircraft as projected or help revise the noise exposure map here as required by the rules instead of slipping in rule changes in Washington.

Anderson said " .. the new .. runway .. is going to take a significant amount of noise off of south Minneapolis." SMAAC's position is clearer: And put a significant amount of noise in Bloomington and South of the Minnesota River while leaving a significant amount of noise in Minneapolis, Mendota Heights, and North Richfield. Once the flights begin off the South end of 17-35, there will be numerous flights &Mac246; probably with noisier-than -projected aircraft &Mac246; making well over 90 decibels noise intensity and probably averaging more than 65 decibels over a given building during an overflight. In South Minneapolis, there will still be more flights &Mac246; probably with noisier-than-projected aircraft &Mac246; making well over 90 decibels noise intensity and probably averaging more than 65 decibels over a given building during an overflight than were projected for 2005 in the 1994 Plan. MAC's plan is to skip measuring noise exposure for a decade. Meanwhile, MAC's 1996 mitigation commitment to its neighbors under the parallel runways is honed away by chicanery, undue political influence, and inattention. SMAAC represents residents under all the MSP runways exposed to significant noise caused by expansion of MSP. The law is there will be a Noise Control Program, it will seek to abate noise through less-noisy equipment, airport operations, and restricted land use, and non-complying noise will be mitigated. That is why we object to this blatant improper influence attempt. How, and why, do Commissioners and NOC representatives from areas scheduled to receive this "significant" noise when Runway 17-35 is opened expect it will be fairly abated or mitigated?


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