CONGRESSMEMBER JOSEPH CROWLEY
Anyone who lives here in Queens can tell you just how loud and disruptive the noise of airplanes can be. Millions of Americans throughout the country, including those who live in the communities surrounding LaGuardia and JFK Airports are impacted by constant, thunderous engine noise all day long. The sound isn’t merely a nuisance – it disrupts sleep, distracts students in our community’s schools and drowns out the joys of daily life.
The problem of excessive noise from airplanes flying over our communities has always been a hard nut to crack. Planes usually have a limited number of options for approaching and departing from runways. These flight paths can change based on many varying conditions in weather, winds and congestion. Especially in the crowded skies over our densely-populated city, there are precious few places airplanes can fly where they won’t be heard by some community.
But there’s one way to resolve this problem to the benefit of all our communities: make airplanes quieter.
In 2006, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued regulations requiring all new aircraft designs to meet Stage 4 noise standards, which is a considerably lower decibel level than those currently in use. While these new rules were a significant step toward improving the quality of life for those who live near airports, they did not go far enough. The FAA did nothing to make sure airlines would begin to phase out older, louder airplanes or retrofit them with quieter engines.
Last week, I introduced legislation to fix that.
My bill, the Silent Skies Act, will require airlines to begin stocking their fleets with newer, quieter aircraft. In order to introduce quieter planes into the market, the bill mandates that the FAA issue regulations by the end of 2015 forcing airlines to begin updating their fleets to meet Stage 4 noise standards. Fleets will have to be updated at a rate of 25 percent every five years, so that all commercial airplanes meet these quieter standards by no later than 2035.
But, we can’t stop there. We can’t just phase out today’s noisy planes and call it quits. We must push the envelope and try to develop technologies that make airplanes even quieter.
That’s why the Silent Skies Act will also create a fund to encourage research and development into these technologies. It will allow the FAA issue up to $10 million in grants for developing better ways to help meet or exceed Stage 4 noise standards. In return, companies that benefit from the program will be asked to pay the money back, using the profits they made on their new engines.
When talking with my constituents about aircraft noise pollution in our communities, I always say our airports will never be perfect neighbors, but we can certainly make them better ones. The truth is our airports are only getting busier. New York will continue to be a destination for more and more people. And that’s a good thing for our local economy. But, that doesn’t mean our communities need to sacrifice their quality of life.
The Silent Skies Act is just the kind of approach we can take to make life better not just for the residents of Queens, but also for so many other communities near airports around the country.
Crowley represents New York’s 14th Congressional District, stretching from Pelham Bay to Elmhurst.
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