Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

November 13, 2013

Airport updates its noise mitigation program

Public meetings set in Plainfield and the westside

By Wade Coggeshall wade.coggeshall@flyergroup.com
Hendricks County Flyer

---- — The Indianapolis Airport Authority will host two public meetings regarding the latest updates to Indianapolis International Airport’s Noise Exposure Map. However, not much has changed since the last update.

The meetings are from 5 to 7 p.m. Nov. 18 at Plainfield High School, 1 Red Pride Drive, and from 5 to 7 p.m. Nov. 19 at the Lynhurst 7th & 8th Grade Center, 2805 S. Lynhurst Drive, Indianapolis. Both meetings are open to the public and will have an informal, open-house setting. Airport staff and noise consultants will be on hand to offer information and answer questions.

Those already familiar with the airport’s NEM shouldn’t expect much difference with the latest update. Robert Duncan, the IAA’s executive director, said the noise exposure maps have changed ever so slightly, “Almost to the point that unless you study it for a while you can’t see the differences. They’re not significant at all.”

The only really noticeable change is a small bump in the boundary of the southwest side of runway 23L.

“It doesn’t impact any homes,” Duncan said.

All the big alterations related to noise mitigation happened years ago. The airport started its noise program in 1987, which initially entailed acquiring 250 homes in the highest impacted areas. The NEM was updated in 1992 when FedEx established a hub there.

“That expanded the noise contours, which required the acquisition of about 750 homes,” Duncan said.

By 1996 the U.S. Postal Service, like FedEx, was running a hub with nighttime operations. That expanded the noise boundaries some five miles from the airport.

“That had us doing sound installation in the Plainfield area,” Duncan said.

In 2000 the postal service contracted with FedEx to deliver mail by air. Those operations moved to the company’s headquarters in Memphis.

“When we finished our study in 2002 and 2003, the noise contours shrank dramatically,” Duncan said. “They’ve been about the same ever since.”

That remains the case despite the massive growth in the warehousing and logistics industries in Plainfield.

“The thing that drives noise contours is not necessarily growth,” Duncan said. “FedEx has started using larger aircraft. They’re carrying more weight with about the same number of aircraft because they’ve upgraded.”

The company retired its fleet of 727s this summer, which were much noisier and less fuel efficient than the aircraft in use now.

“FedEx has always striven to be a good neighbor and use the quietest aircraft they can put on line as soon as they can,” Duncan said. “They’ve been doing that the last several years.”

Passenger aircraft is less of a concern in the airport’s noise program because most of those flights are during the day. When monitoring noise, a nighttime flight (after 10 p.m.) counts as 10 daytime flights. Noise levels are measured in decibels and the averages weighted over the course of a year.

The average number of flights from IIA is actually decreasing.

“Passenger airlines are pulling back flights through mergers and reducing the amount of capacity that they operate out of the airport,” Duncan said. “We’ve gone over the last three or four years from about 150 flights a day down to maybe 134.”

According to numbers provided by the IAA, the airport’s noise program has reduced complaints from more than 1,000 in 1997 to 23 last year. As well, about 15,000 residents were impacted by aircraft noise levels deemed incompatible with residential use by the Federal Aviation Administration when the noise program was implemented. The IAA estimates that number to be less than 65 now.

The airport’s updated noise exposure map may be viewed online at IndianapolisAirport.com/information_news/NoiseManagement.aspx. Copies also are available at the Plainfield-Guilford Township Public Library, 1120 Stafford Road; and the Wayne Township Library, 198 S. Girls School Road.