Port Commission Letter: Flights Too Low and Too Loud

A letter to all Port Commisioners, dated 07/24/2018 following the Regular Commission Meeting.


Today, a resident of Federal Way presented you with data about flights arriving too low from a popular web site AirNoise.io. As you were told, residents use the site all the time now to make complaints. You responded with interest–which is very good to hear as this is an extremely common issue (especially with Runway #1 which flies directly over seven schools!)

Three of you might remember that last year at this time I came before you with a proposal to give developers (such as myself) access to flight and noise monitor data you get from your vendor Harris (Symphony). I had a meeting with David Soike and Stan Shepherd. It was agreed to provide this data to the public on an ongoing basis. I developed a reporting application which gives residents useful information about flights and noise from your noise monitors. Since then, your IT dept. has developed their own version of this app which is now a part of your new site. Here it is. Nicely done.

I mention this because the data the public gets from AirNoise.io is derived from that same dataset. So you should be able to get reports any time you like as to which airplanes are coming in ‘out of the lane’ (too low or too loud).

The one thing you did not give public access to was complete flight tracking data. I was told by your legal dept. that Harris objected to giving all flight tracking data as a violation of your contract with them. But the key thing is that you have access to that in-house data and there is no reason why you cannot make public another subset of their data–ie. flights which are too low or too loud. Just add that report to your current flight reporting.

In short: the one thing you could do to dramatically improve the transparency of your flight data would be to make available a weekly or monthly list of the flights that go out of spec (too low or too loud.) This seems to me to be no different than the reporting airlines now do about their on-time percentage. The public shouldn’t have to be using an ‘app’ to show you information you already possess. It should be the other way round: you should be publishing this data on a regular basis.

But the real issue is not in determining that flights are coming in too low or which specific flights are too loud. We already know that this is the case. The question is what you are willing to do about it?

Residents have complained bitterly about this problem for decades and they are always told the same things by your noise complaint people: a) it isn’t happening b) and even if it is happening, all we (the Port) can do is to report it to the FAA. It is they who are in charge of enforcement. And frankly, they never take the airlines to task when planes come in too low or are too loud. As you can imagine, both these responses have been INFURIATING to residents.

What residents want to know is: Are you willing to (for the first time) insist that the FAA take action on planes which fly too low and too loud?

This is the kind of small, but meaningful, issue you can help the communities with now.



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