CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Officials at Charlotte Douglas International Airport said Thursday that they’re trying a new takeoff method to mitigate noise complaints from south Charlotte residents, who protested after more frequent flights began over their houses.
But residents haven’t seen improvement, according to an attorney working with them, and airport officials acknowledged they haven’t yet seen a change in the number of complaints.
Residents have organized a group, Fair Air Charlotte, and met with officials to lobby for more dispersed flight paths. Attorney Will Terpening said “all options remain on the table” for Fair Air Charlotte, including a lawsuit, and that residents need to see more progress from the airport before deciding what to do.
The dispute stems from computer-controlled takeoff procedures instituted at Charlotte Douglas by the Federal Aviation Administration two years ago. Known as “RNAV,” the procedure guides planes on extremely precise routes as they depart, in order to increase efficiency.
That leads to a larger number of planes over concentrated corridors instead of the dispersed flights residents were used to before. In some cases, the affected residents live more than a dozen miles from the ends of the runways, and never thought they would be in an airport noise zone.
“We’ve had a lot of communities let us know they’ve seen a lot of planes,” assistant aviation director Jack Christine told the Airport Advisory Committee at their monthly meeting Thursday morning. “With 700 departures a day, it gets to be very heavy traffic on those routes.”
Christine said the new takeoff procedures are a mix of RNAV flight paths and the former takeoff method, known as vectored departures. Under the vectored departure method, pilots would fly straight for two miles after takeoff, then manually turn to follow a heading. That resulted in more dispersed flight paths because of simple variations in when exactly pilots would turn, Christine said, leading to fewer airplanes over each house.
Under the new procedures, pilots are taking off with RNAV procedures, but then changing to a vectored flight plan. That leads to some concentration of flight routes, but not as much as under a pure RNAV procedure. The procedures are the result of an agreement between US Airways and the FAA, Christine said.
Terpening said residents have told him they are still troubled by noise. He commended officials for trying to reduce noise though. “However, the proof will be in the pudding, and many (Fair Air Charlotte) members apparently have not seen results yet,” he said.
The noise generates fewer complaints from north Charlotte residents, officials said, because the flight routes carry planes over busy highways more quickly.