SOUTH PORTLAND — People filled City Council chambers Wednesday night to air concerns and discuss potential plans to mitigate noise from the Portland International Jetport, but no action was taken.

The jetport Noise Advisory Committee meeting with officials from the Federal Aviation Administration primarily focused on plans for two new flight paths that could reduce noise over residential neighborhoods. They would direct flights over Portland Harbor and the Fore River at all hours, assuming the aircraft have updated technology and global position systems.

One would have all planes approach the airport following a direct path over Portland Harbor and the Fore River. The second would still have the majority of planes going over neighborhoods closest to the shoreline.

But FAA officials said neither plan is feasible because of costs to airlines and safety concerns. They suggested a third option, which would make the current Harbor View Approach available to more flights, without requiring aircraft upgrades.

“Ninety-four percent of planes are not capable for the (first plan),” FAA Air Traffic Manager Mark Collins said. “Ninety-two percent are not capable of the (second).”

Dave Wakelin, the South Portland representative on the Noise Advisory Committee, said “the (second) plan would be no improvement at all.” 

When possible, pilots are now instructed to utilize the Harbor View Approach, which bring them in over the harbor instead of homes.

This approach requires good weather and daylight hours, since pilots rely on visual guidance. In bad weather or at night, planes frequently approach the jetport over residential neighborhoods of South Portland.

“The HVA is not a noise buffer, it is an echo chamber,” resident Katherine Latendresse said. “Many of the planes still go over the town too, on beautiful days. The only fair solution is to fan out approaches, so it’s not all over us.”

Other residents said pilots are not using the HVA when they can, either to save time or fuel.

“I can assure you that pilots love the HVA approach,” Airport Director Paul Bradbury responded. “It is a time where they can truly take the plane and fly, and it is considered one of the most beautiful approaches in the entire country.”

Officials noted, however, that while weather conditions may seem beautiful, air conditions do not always allow use of the HVA. Further, if a plane is already utilizing the HVA, air traffic control cannot send another plane on that path.

The proposed new approach rules would require aircraft to turn tighter angles into the airport, which could affect stability. They would also require waivers from the FAA.

“It is about a mile off of where the regulations are,” Collins said. 

FAA officials proposed another plan, that could make the HVA more viable. It would establish more visual points for pilots to follow along the harbor path, and  allow more planes to use the HVA in bad weather.

“That does not help the issue with the nighttime flights,” Wakelin said.

Resident Steve Silver said “the issue is that we cannot have our windows open in the day with the noise. There are times I thought about taking a loss and selling my house.”

He added that he and others feel the FAA is not listening to their concerns.

“I have called the complaint number many times, and not once (heard) back,” he said.

Other people, however, said the airport is a financial fixture in the area.

“The people complaining bought property by an airport,” resident Mike Angre said. “I live in a city, I don’t expect it to be quiet. … This airport has done a lot for us.”

South Portland representatives will report back to the rest of the committee, which also includes members from Portland, Westbrook, Cape Elizabeth, Peaks Island, Scarborough and Gorham, to discuss the feedback received Wednesday.

Wakelin said they should still pursue a new approach plan. “If that fails,” he said, “we can fall back on these other approaches.”

Chance Viles can be reached at 780-9092 or [email protected]. Follow Chance on Twitter: @chanceviles.

Katherine Latendresse makes her point to Federal Aviation Administration officials in a packed meeting of the Portland Jetport Noise Advisory Committee Wednesday night, June 5, at South Portland City Hall.

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