SOUTH PORTLAND — There is no need for Sen. Susan Collins to get involved with a purported airport noise problem, as the Portland Press Herald reported Aug. 2. This is because, based on her statements, the data presented to her are quite misleading. Sen. Collins said the number of noise complaints has increased over the past three years. While there may have been a perceived increase in the number of complaints, that number is not indicative of the number of people complaining.

The Press Herald recently reported that there have been a total of 1,400 noise complaints to the Portland International Jetport, coming from only 181 individuals. This disparity is not unusual. On June 10, Simpleflying.com reported that one man in Liverpool, England, had made 16,407 noise complaints in just nine months! In 2016, in Ohio at the John Glenn Columbus International Airport, there were 210 complaints from just two people. At Heathrow Airport in London, the 2019 second-quarter noise report shows that four people had complained more than 1,280 times over three months. This shows how airplane noise becomes an obsession for some individuals, apparently including many residents of the eastern side of South Portland.

The fact is that airport noise has dramatically decreased over the years. Fewer flights in and out of the jetport with larger aircraft have increased passenger capacity. Newer, more technologically advanced engines on these aircraft have decreased the noise levels near the jetport tremendously.

Purchasing a home requires research – and not just about the local schools and taxes. What is the street noise like? Is the house near a highway? Is it near railroad tracks?

Highways in the skies leading to and from airports are as immovable as interstates and railroads; they’re called flight paths, or “the pattern.” Some homes, even those five or more miles away from a runway, may be under a flight path. Many individuals who complain about jetport noise, at least those who spoke out at the latest public meeting, are reasonably new to the area. I was at that meeting, too; it was clear to me that few, if any, knew they had purchased a home under a flight path. They didn’t do their due diligence in the purchase process. They paid no attention to the location of an airport that has been five miles away since the late 1920s.

Developing local or state ordinances could solve this problem in the future. For example, in Salt Lake City a small airport in the southwest portion of the city that’s been around since World War II has houses all around it with very few noise complaints. The reason: By law, when someone purchases a house within a certain distance of the airport (or under a current or potential flight path), paperwork includes a statement that the buyer must sign, acknowledging the airport’s location.

Bear in mind, the city of South Portland has proven that it does not worry about South Portland airport noise complaints, unless they come from the eastern, wealthier side of the city. In 2017, when Sable Oaks, right under the approach and departure corridors of Runway 11/29, was in the process of being rezoned to residential, jetport director Paul Bradbury beseeched the City Council not to permit the rezoning because of noise concerns. In the middle of his presentation to the council, an aircraft flew right over City Hall, drowning out his voice. This didn’t matter to the South Portland City Council; the land was rezoned anyway. Apparently, potential airport noise problems don’t matter if they would affect residents of the “wrong side of town” – the west side.

I have visited the Willard Square and Loveitt’s Field area of South Portland and timed my visits to correspond with aircraft fly-overs. The fact is, it’s just not that loud. Not as loud as trucks passing on a busy highway, like certain west-side Crocketts Corner residents must live with, and certainly not as loud as the sound of train cars being slammed together, railroad engines idling or Amtrak whistles blowing in Rigby Yard, which many Thornton Heights residents endure daily. What a shame that the whiny sound of a jet engine is so often imitated by some South Portland residents.


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