2013-09-27 / Front Page

Jetport addresses noise concerns

By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND – The Portland International Jetport’s promotional materials highlight the airport’s proximity to the urban center of Portland as a benefit to travelers.

Instead of taking a long shuttle or taxi ride to go from the airport to town, passengers arriving in Portland touch down on the runway just five miles from the old port, the city’s center of tourist attractions.

However, while the proximity of the airport to the city is a benefit for travelers, the location of the airport noise is a concern for residents both in Portland and South Portland.

The terminal of the jetport is officially located within Portland, but the runway area is split between the two neighboring cities, and many flights cross directly over South Portland neighborhoods on their path in to or out of the airport.

Staff from the Portland International Jetport and members of the airport’s Noise Advisory Committee met with a handful of residents in a community meeting Thursday, Sept. 19 at the Redbank Community Center to gather feedback about noise and explain ongoing efforts to reduce the nuisance to community members.

Ed Suslovic, a Portland city councilor and chairman of the Noise Advisory Committee, said the two neighboring cities are “attached at the hip” in their goal to continue reducing airplane noise, but the impact to neighborhoods will never entirely go away.

“We can’t eliminate all noise from the airport. We do the best we can to minimize the impact on people,” Suslovic said.

According to Airport Director Paul Bradbury, the number of flights at the jetport have continually dropped in the last 10 years, from more than 80,000 in 2003 to fewer than 60,000 in 2012.

The reason, Bradley said, comes down to the rising cost of jet fuel. Although more passengers are traveling through Portland by plane now than there were 10 years ago, airlines are producing larger aircrafts to transport more passengers in order to drive profits and lower fuel costs.

However, Cathy Daly, a South Portland resident who has lived in the Knightville area for eight years, said she has noticed noise trending in the opposite direction.

“It’s gotten worse,” Daly said of the noise disturbances from planes flying over her home.

A few years ago, Daly said she would notice four or five planes a day crossing overhead, but recently she has taken to writing down each plane she notices, and there have been days when she stopped counting around 40 or 50.

Although Thursday’s community meeting was held in the Redbank Community Center in the western portion of the city, which directly abuts the airport, Daly and the other residents in attendance mostly came from South Portland’s east side, where many flights cross over on their descent or departure into the jetport.

Airport Operations Manager Brad Wallace explained 95 percent of flights arrive through the jetport’s east-west runway to avoid the population dense neighborhoods of Stroudwater in Portland to the north and Redbank in South Portland to the south.

By contrast, there are virtually no homes in the flight path to the west of the jetport.

However, to the east of the airport, flights generally follow a path that crosses over the South Portland neighborhoods of Knightville and Ferry Village about 1,700 feet above the ground, low enough for residents to notice the planes.

To cut down on the noise affecting South Portland residents, planes began using radio navigation procedures – or RNAV – on departure. Planes using the RNAV method have to be equipped with GPS navigation, which they use to follow a departure route above the Fore River, then staying above water to thread between Portland and South Portland.

According to Airport Operations Manager Brad Wallace, the RNAV departure avoids sending planes out of the jetport at a low elevation that could be disruptive to residents. By the time the planes cross over the homes on Peaks Island, they have already climbed to an elevation of 3,000 feet.

Wallace said the RNAV procedure is not available on arrivals because the Federal Aviation Administration deemed the final turn too dangerous for an incoming plane. However, if conditions are clear, pilots are able to use the “harbor visual approach” to guide the plane along the Fore River using visual markers.

The Noise Advisory Committee, which includes South Portland City Councilor Alan Livingston and resident Adrian Dowling, as well as Cape Elizabeth Town Councilor David Sherman, meets quarterly at the jetport.

Although Cathy Daly said she still has concerns about airplane noise over her house, she plans to take up Bradbury’s offer to attend a meeting at the airport, and she was encouraged by the information at the community meeting.

“It was good to hear that they care,” Daly said.

Return to top