Seattle Council on Airport Affairs
 A Grassroots Organization Helping Communities, Government and Airports

Is Aircraft Noise Destroying Your Quality of Life in Seattle?

SCAA has heard from a lot of Seattle residents about their aviation concerns. The most common questions are:

Q: Is there anything that can be done about night time jet noise?

Noisy jets either keep people awake or wake them up during the night. Sleep disturbance is a serious problem in Seattle as both Sea-Tac and Boeing Field, unlike many similar airports, operate 24 hours a day. While both airports have some limited nighttime noise abatement procedures, these only help some residents some of the time. In addition, the FAA has suggested they need to start the night procedures later which will result in more sleep disturbance. SCAA has some suggestions that would result in fewer awakenings.

Q: Jet noise seems to be getting worse, why are there are many more flights now compared to when we moved here?

Both Sea-Tac and Boeing Field have experienced extensive growth in the last decade. While air traffic has been down somewhat post 9/11, it's still up dramatically over the last 10 years. The two airports combined have over 750,000 operations annually, that's over 2000 takeoffs and landings a day! Much of that traffic flies over large residential areas of Seattle. If nothing is done, it's just going to get worse!

Q: Why do so many jets seem to fly over some of the most densely populated residential areas?

Back around 1990, the FAA implemented the "Four Post Plan" here in Seattle. Prior to 1990, most of the jet traffic was routed over the Duwamish and Elliot Bay where the impacts to residents were minimized. Today, however, that route carries only a small portion of the total traffic. The vast majority of the planes fly over dozens of densely populated neighborhoods creating many complaints. This goes against common sense, and what may have been tolerable in 1990 has become a huge problem today. There's a lot of room for improvement.

Q: Can anything be done to make things quieter or do we have to move out of the area?

In the 90's, Congress passed the Air Noise Capacity Act (ANCA) to help reduce flight delays. ANCA removed nearly all local control of airports and gave the FAA complete jurisdiction. This means local communities have very little say in how many, and at what hours, noisy planes fly over their neighborhoods. Don't give up hope, however, it is still possible to affect changes. Some communities in other cities have been successful in getting the FAA to change flight procedures. Others have encouraged new airports to be built in less populated areas, or successfully blocked expansion of existing airports. There are also things that can still be done within the constraints of the FAA and ANCA.

Q: What is SCAA doing to help improve the quality of life for Seattle residents?

SCAA is trying to make a difference on many levels. Members of SCAA took an active role in the recent Part 150 noise studies at both Sea-Tac and Boeing Field. We have taken specific action on individual issues such as the 3rd runway at Sea-Tac, various expansion projects at Boeing Field and helped defeat a permit for float plane operations on Elliot Bay. We have met with various elected officials on many occasions. We've educated many as to what the issues are and some of the possible solutions. SCAA has also hosted various educational meetings, attended noise conferences, and published a lot of material on aviation impacts.

Q: What can I do to help SCAA and make things quieter over my house?

First, we'd like to stress that SCAA supports reducing aviation impacts for the city of Seattle as a whole. We do NOT advocate simply moving an existing problem from one neighborhood to another. We favor solutions that result in an overall improvement such as fewer flights, quieter planes, increased night restrictions and increased use of flight tracks over industrial and water areas.

Anyone interested in helping our cause should consider joining SCAA or helping in other ways. Please click here for more information.

Latest SCAA News!

Alec Fisken replaces Clare Nordquist on Port of Seattle Commission! Fisken, along with returning newcomer Lawrence Molloy, could help bring postive change to the Port of Seattle. Read More.

Sea-Tac Revises Cost Estimates for 3rd Runway Upward to $1.2 Billion But Where Will The Money Come From? As many have suspected, the original estimates for the 3rd runway were far too low. Many still believe even the revised estimate is still low. What's more, there is concern Sea-Tac cannot afford the runway. Read more.

Rumor or Fact? Port of Seattle Buying KCIA? Articles in the Daily Journal of Commerce and elsewhere have referenced e-mails and other sources indicating there have been discussions regarding King County selling Boeing Field to the Port. Such a sale would appear to help King County financially and provide Sea-Tac with additional resources. Could it also mean more flights closer to Seattle?

New Director At KCIA, Master Plan Further Delayed. Robert Burke has filled the open Airport Director position at Boeing Field. Further, the long overdue master plan that addresses such critical issues as the extension of the runway to the north, has been further delayed into 2004.

Real Time Flight Data Update - As reported last year, many airports have installed a system allowing those bothered by aviation noise to look up specific flights shortly after they occur in near real time. SCAA has been encouraging the installation of this system at Sea-Tac. Get the latest news.

Older News...

KCIA Part 150 Approved! The Boeing Field Part 150 study was finally approved in late 2002. SCAA most recently addressed labor concerns in a letter to Dow Constantine. Read up on the history in the SCAA archives.

New FAA Guidelines Go Beyond 65 DNL Contour - A recent FAA AIP Handbook allows for airports to consider areas outside the traditional noise contours unsuitable for certain land use. You can find out more at :

Pollution Board Rules On 3rd Runway Permit. The port receives a critical permit for the 3rd runway. Seattle Times article Full text of the final report is here.

FAA Approves Sea-Tac Part 150 - The Sea-Tac Part 150 noise study was approved by the FAA. Read the complete story here.

Noise Pollution Clearinghouse releases a study of the FAA Draft Noise Abatement Policy 2000. Their findings were interesting and SCAA has prepared a summary of the key points and has a limited number of booklets available for those who are interested in learning more.


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