Silent Skies Alleviates Aircraft Noise Pollution

Idea

Congress is considering new legislation requiring airlines to buy quieter aircraft US Rep. Joe Crowley (NY-14), along with Reps. Steve Israel (NY-3), Gregory Meeks (NY-5), and Grace Meng (NY-6), local elected officials, civic organizations, advocates and community members announced the introduction of the Silent Skies Act (H.R. 3650), legislation that aims to improve the quality of life for those who live near airports. Far too many communities are impacted by constant engine noise all day long, and the deafening sound poses certain health risks, disrupts student learning and drowns out the joys of daily life. The Silent Skies Act will require the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to issue regulations by the end of 2015 requiring commercial airplanes to meet Stage 4 noise standards, which is a significantly lower decibel level than those currently in use.

“Airports can never be perfect neighbors, but we can take steps to make them better neighbors,” said Rep. Crowley. “The Silent Skies Act will help achieve that goal by requiring airlines to begin stocking their fleets with newer, quieter aircraft. It is one of the few solutions that would benefit all of the surrounding communities of our airports. While commercial aircraft can never be truly silent, we can make sure they are less disruptive to the families who live nearby and improve the quality of life in our communities, not just here in Queens but throughout the country.”

In 2006, the FAA issued regulations requiring all new commercial aircraft designs to meet Stage 4 noise standards. While these new rules were a significant step toward improving the quality of life for those who live near airports, the FAA was silent on whether airlines would need to phase out older, louder airplanes or retrofit them with quieter engines.

In order to introduce quieter airplanes into the market, the Silent Skies Act will require the FAA to issue the new regulations to phase in the quieter engines at a rate of 25% of an airline’s fleet every five years, so that all commercial airplanes meet these quieter standards by 2035 at the latest.

In addition, the bill encourages research and development of quieter engine technologies. Currently, there is no stream of federal funding dedicated specifically to the development of quieter engines. The Silent Skies Act authorizes a new partnership program for the development of technologies to help meet Stage 4 or better standards. The partnership is a grant program that requires a portion of revenues from the sale of successful, new technologies to be paid back into the program.

“New Yorkers should not have to worry about constant interruptions by airplanes flying overhead,” said Rep. Israel. “We’ve made significant strides by getting the Port Authority to create an Airport Advisory Committee to address this issue and by pushing for more noise monitors to measure the noise level, but it’s not enough. The Silent Skies Act will promote the use of newer, quieter aircrafts and will make a big difference for residents in Queens and Nassau County, as well as those who live near airports all over the country. I urge my colleagues to swiftly pass this common-sense legislation.”

“The quality of the life in the neighborhoods surrounding JFK and LaGuardia should be better,” said Rep. Meeks. “The Silent Skies Act recognizes that we cannot remove airports from our neighborhoods, however we can take practical measures to mute the noise pollution caused by air traffic. This bill works to phase out louder aircraft engines and supports the introduction of new technology that significantly reduces their environmental impact. By making our communities more livable, the Silent Skies Act paves the way for increased and diversified economic investment.”

“Airplane noise continues to ruin the quality of life in Queens,” said Rep. Meng. “It is imperative that we do all we can to reduce it, and requiring airlines to fly quieter aircrafts would go a long way towards achieving that critical goal. I’m happy to support the Silent Skies Act and look forward to working with Congressman Crowley to pass it.”

“Recent changes in flight procedures have caused constant, intolerable noise in wide areas of our New York/New Jersey metro area,” said Queens Quiet Skies President Janet McEneaney. “Queens Quiet Skies applauds Rep. Crowley's initiative to take action against aircraft noise at its source and to provide funding for noise research that will benefit all of us. For too long, the interests of residents here were not considered when aviation procedures were planned. With this proposed legislation, Rep. Crowley is telling members of the airline industry that we expect them to take their share of responsibility to fix the problems caused by those new flight procedures. With creative problem-solving like Rep. Crowley's legislation, the airlines will actively participate in finding answers that will protect millions of residents on the ground without sacrificing performance, safety or jobs.”

Crowley has worked extensively with community leaders, federal officials, and representatives from New York City and State to abate the congestion and noise that schools, businesses, and homes are subjected to because of their close proximity to LaGuardia Airport. In April 2001, Crowley authored a plan to alleviate community concerns associated with the airport. In 2002, he secured $100,000 in federal funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to carry out an air quality and noise study in the neighborhoods surrounding LaGuardia. He also secured $240,000 for LaGuardia Airport Noise Monitors to track airport noise at LaGuardia and ensure curfews were being met. Crowley is the author of H.R. 455, legislation that would create a commission to study and make recommendations regarding the establishment of curfews for civil aircraft over populated areas.