DIA flight pattern change, flight increase leads to spike in Boulder noise complaints

FAA 'redesigning' airspace around Denver
Posted at 8:24 PM, Jan 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-20 13:15:58-05

BOULDER, Colo. – Several residents who live on Table Mesa in south Boulder say commercial air traffic noise is affecting their quality of life.

The city says it has received 15 to 20 noise complaints over the last few months.

In a letter to city council, one resident wrote that she had flown to Sacramento over the holidays, looked out the window and could clearly see the plane was flying over Table Mesa.

When she returned on Dec. 30, she was particularly struck by the number of flights and noise overhead.

“For example,” she said, “I heard 8 flights in a 20-minute period, between 11:20 and 11:40 p.m.”

Boulder Airport Manager Tim Head says newer navigation technology was put in place in 2013 that narrowly focuses westbound air traffic over Table Mesa.

He told Denver7 that prior to 2013, the flight path took traffic over an area between Rocky Flats and south Boulder.

DIA spokesman Heath Montgomery told Denver7 that they "are not aware of any change in flight patterns over south Boulder."

Boulder officials say they noticed a spike in jet noise complaints last summer.  They say that may be related to an increase in the number of aircraft using the narrowly focused flight pattern.

“We do have a few more daily flights that use that path than in past years,” said DIA spokesman Heath Montgomery, “but we’re talking about a change of maybe up to 10 more flights per day…”

Some residents have noticed.

“The noise level varies,” said Marilyn Decalo. “Sometimes it’s loud, if the plane is taking off or landing.”

Decalo said she sees big planes from DIA and small ones from Boulder Municipal Airport flying above her neighborhood.

“Sometimes the smaller ones… can be louder, if they’re closer,” she said.

The FAA is in the process of “redesigning” airspace around Denver, mainly to address inefficiencies. The goal is to improve access to DIA, Rocky Mountain Metropolitan and Centennial Airports.

The FAA estimates that the redesign, new navigation procedures and Time-Based Flow Management will lead to:

  • $1.8 million in fuel savings
  • 600,000 gallons of fuel saved
  • 5.4 thousand metric tons of carbon savings

The FAA expects to hold eight public meetings in the Denver area this spring, regarding the upcoming airspace improvements.

One of those meetings will be held in Boulder.

Residents will be able to ask questions about the recommendations and about the noise.

While some residents believe there is too much aircraft-related noise, many others say they don’t think it’s a big problem.

“I fly a certain amount,” said Susan Anthes, “and I like to be safe. If it’s safer for aircraft to go one way or the other, it’s okay with me.”

“I think there are probably a few more important things that are happening, that we could all speak up about, than airplane noise,” Decalo said. “I do think it’s a quality of life issue, but the airport is far enough way that it doesn’t interfere with our ability to live a high quality of life.”


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