To the editor:
Fort Myers Beach residents, who live under the Southwest Florida International Airport flight path, should be irate with the recent Federal Aviation Administration response to the RSW Part 150 Noise Compatibility Study.
The Record of Approval declined to approve any operational measures to improve the quality of life for the Town of Fort Myers Beach because the Town does not have a noise problem by FAA standards. The FAA feels there is no noise problem unless aircraft over flights exceed 65 DNL. The term DNL is defined by the FAA as the day/night average sound level for all aircraft operations measured in decibels averaged over a 24-hour period. By this measurement technique, the only place the 65 DNL limit is exceeded is on airport property. If the measure were averaged during peak arrival times, some residential areas of FMB experiencing noise now, would be found to have a noise problem even by FAA standards.
Airlines and air traffic controllers are implementing noise mitigation efforts on a voluntary basis that are suppose to reduce the number of aircraft flying over FMB. Those that do fly over FMB are supposed to voluntarily be at or above 3,000 feet. One year's worth of data shows that on average 80 percent of the aircraft landing on preferred Runway 6 fly over FMB. Over one-third of the aircraft are below 3,000 ft, with some as low as 1,500 ft. During peak travel times, performance was worse. Although there may be some improvement over the past year as a result of efforts by air traffic controllers, the cause of FMB aircraft problems goes back much farther.
Over the last 15 to 20 years an increasing number of low flying aircraft have been directed over FMB residents, visitors, and businesses located on Estero Island because of recommendations made by RSW and FAA. These changes were made in order to mitigate noise for other communities. These have included transferring noisy Stage 2 jets from flying over communities near the Naples airport to communities surrounding RSW. Also, the distance that aircraft must be aligned with the runway has been moved farther out over the years, encroaching on FMB, in order to accommodate complaints from other communities. Problems for FMB became significantly worse in October 2008 when the FAA implemented a southwest Florida airspace redesign that significantly changed arrival routes for RSW. In 2009, significant changes in the flight pattern and air traffic controller commands to pilots were made because of noise complaints from Estero. Aircraft noise was transferred from the Estero community to FMB without any consultation or agreement by the Town of Fort Myers Beach.
The Lee County Port Authority may take measures to abate noise only if the action taken is REASONABLE, NON-ARBITRARY AND NON-DISCRIMINATORY. Avoiding noise transfer from one community to another is the preeminent test of REASONABLENESS. The FAA has stated that it will not arbitrarily change flight patterns to move noise from one community to another. That is exactly what they did in 2009 when the approach procedures were changed from SHFTY ONE to SHFTY TWO. Instead of allowing aircraft to turn over uninhabited Estero Bay, this change required all aircraft to fly farther from the airport, out over the Gulf and then fly back directly over FMB in order to line up with the runway. This was not advantageous for the air traffic controllers, pilots or airlines and made aircraft noise much worse for FMB.
It is time for the Town of Fort Myers Beach to contest these changes. Our quality of life, health, safety and property values have been negatively impacted. Legal action may have to be taken against the Port Authority and FAA for violating their own noise mitigation criteria that should not transfer aircraft noise from one community to another.
Fort Myers Beach