Naples City Council was updated Monday on the status of Naples Airport’s Part 150 Noise and Land Use Compatibility Study.
The voluntary study, which began in 2020, is aimed at assessing the airport’s noise compatibility planning. The goal is to provide an approach for airport operators and the Federal Aviation Administration to evaluate and address community concerns regarding noise exposure while maintaining the safety and operations of the airport. Between 2020 and 2021, the airport received a 40% increase in air traffic, causing air noise to increasingly be a nuisance for many throughout the community.
Two parts make up the study, creating noise exposure maps showing community exposure to certain levels of noise now and in the future and conducting a noise compatibility program that recommends ways to reduce that noise.
The first phase of the study concluded in December 2020, evaluating noise conditions now and five years into the future. Once the noise exposure maps were completed and approved by the FAA late last year, the airport has been in the second phase of the study which is the noise compatibility program portion.
In late May, the Naples Airport Authority held a meeting with the FAA to share noise level concerns of the surrounding community. The meeting covered the unique activity patterns of the airport that change with seasons, a population analysis showing the densities of the residents in proximity of the airport along with how community complaints have increased over time.
“As a result of the meeting, the FAA requested a letter from the airport authority identifying alternatives to begin analyzing,” study manager Mike Arnold said. “So, we know as we were going into the last set of workshops that one of the things we wanted to come out with were some initial ideas of things that we wanted to forward to the FAA.”
During the course of the Part 150 Study, 89 measures were identified that could provide some noise benefit and relief. These measures fall into three categories of raising aircraft altitudes by getting aircraft higher sooner, modifying the routings of aircraft and dispersing the activity throughout the community.
Some of the land-use measures identified include implementing a residential sound insulation program, instituting real estate disclosures and adopting a lower noise threshold than the current day-night average sound level of 60 decibels.
Other approaches being considered are more pragmatic. “Many of the measures can be compiled or included in what we call a Fly Quiet Program,” Arnold said. “These would be a range of voluntary potential measures that could be implemented, they could be promoted through an education process with the users and a reward process with the users as well as we monitor the clients with those voluntary activities.”
Although Naples Airport has been in consistent contact with the FAA by reaching out for assistance in evaluating various measures for the study, the FAA has not approved multiple of these potential improvements as part of the Part 150 Study. In July, the airport reached out about increasing plane altitude upon departure and arrival and implementing alternative runway headings, but the FAA responded stating these measures do not meet the objective of the study.
However, staff at the airport is continuing to be proactive in seeking appropriate measures. “The challenge here is that it’s the FAA that interprets whether these various elements have been met or not in their review of part 150,” Arnold said. “So, what we are trying to do is be very aware of whether these measures are likely to get approved by the FAA and if they’re not likely to get approved by the FAA, but they show that they can provide noise benefit, create a strategy to be able to move those forward in cooperation with the FAA to be able to have the biggest effect possible.”
Even though a potential solution may not fit within the scope of the Part 150 Study, the airport can still work with the FAA outside of the study on the desired change. Naples City Council voiced that it would like to see more imminent solutions before the Part 150 Study is finished.
“We need to make sure that we are very focused and pointed on our alternatives, as the board has to be the one that looks at it and says, ‘Here these are and no longer are we held captive by the final 150,’” council member Michael McCabe said. “The only thing we’re held captive by is the FAA and we should look at that is something we need to make sure we educate in and push.”
The Naples Airport Authority ensures that action is already being taken outside of the multi-year-long study.
“We hope to be able to move some of these things forward,” Naples Airport Executive Director Chris Rozansky said. “We’re certainly not waiting for the completion of Part 150 because some of these things are independent of Part 150.”
The airport’s goal is to have the draft of the Noise Compatibility Program report available for public comment by early 2023, conducting public workshops on the document and submitting the final draft to the FAA in Spring 2023. The FAA has 180 days to comment on which of the 89 measures may be implemented.