Dear LAist: There Are Loud Airplanes Over My Neighborhood! What Can I Do?
THIS STORY IS PART OF HOW TO L.A., OUR ONGOING SERIES OF PRACTICAL GUIDES FOR DAY-TO-DAY LIVING IN LOS ANGELES.
Here in L.A. we are blessed to have not one, not two, but three main airports nearby (and a few more) to take us in and out of town. The downside to all those airports: airplane noise. Especially when that noise seems to be getting louder lately.
A reader named Jade asked us why there seemed to be more flights above her neighborhood recently. "How are LAX flight paths determined?" she asked. "Monterey Park people noticed lower, louder flights turning around over the city. How do we change this?"
What's more, she said, these new flybys were a little unnerving: "When you can see in detail the logo on the plane, it feels a bit too close!"
For starters, if you're hearing louder or more frequent roars of airplane engines above your neighborhood, it's not your imagination.
The Federal Aviation Administration launched a plan in 2015 that changed the routes that flights in Southern California follow — and that means they're perhaps going over your neighborhood now. So yes: there's more airplane noise in some areas, and less in others.
The FAA's plan was given a futuristic name, "Metroplex," and it's an effort to remap the airspace around the 21 airports from San Diego to Santa Barbara. It's Southern California's piece of a bigger, nationwide program called NextGen to improve operations throughout U.S. airspace.
The FAA wanted to remap the flights in part because it decided to switch from radar to satellite navigation to guide takeoffs and landings — satellite guidance means planes can follow more precise routes.
Using radar means more coordination from air traffic control to ensure each flight path remained separate and safe. Satellites automate much of that work, and requires less communication between pilots and air traffic control — and therefore, the FAA says, fewer opportunities for miscommunication.
Airlines supported the plan because they expected it to make flights more fuel efficient, meaning they could potentially accommodate more flights in a day.
The FAA essentially consolidated the flight paths.
What used to be a broad river of dozens of flight paths over homes became a closely-focused narrow stream of flights, with some homes getting the bulk of noise.
The new plan was not meant to create any big disturbances, although cities like Culver City, Newport Beach and Santa Monica raised concerns that directing flights toward narrower channels would concentrate the noise.
After the plan passed, the FAA phased it in from the fall of 2016 to spring 2017.
SO HOW'S THE PLAN WORKING OUT?
Pretty well, if you ask the FAA. An FAA representative told LAist that Metroplex has decreased carbon emissions and minimized dependence on air traffic control, making flights safer and more efficient.
But some residents have been displeased since it took effect. The new flight paths have provoked noise complaints from all over SoCal and beyond — and the FAA confirmed that it's received a considerable increase in noise-related grievances since the project went into effect.
And some officials have taken action. Rep. Adam Schiff called on the FAA to review airplane noise around the Burbank airport. Culver City and Newport Beach went even farther to sue the FAA, saying that the data the FAA used as a basis for Metroplex — the idea that consolidating airplane paths would reduce noise — was actually data from an East Coast city, ignoring the air and noise pollution conditions specific to SoCal.
The Los Angeles World Airports, the city government office that manages LAX, has done a couple of things to address residents' concerns about the noise:
- It's answered a list of frequently asked questions regarding the Metroplex project.
- It's organized public outreach meetings with community members.
- There are webinar videos, too.
TALKING TO THE METROPLEX PEOPLE
If you want to reach out to the powers that be at Metroplex, you can first try filing a noise complaint to your local airport. (Here's the Los Angeles World Airports noise complaint form.)
LAWA is also hosting Community Noise Roundtable meetings. City and neighborhood representatives, as well as officials from the FAA and LAX, attend the meetings. The best way to get your concerns addressed is to send them to your local representative and make sure they are attending the meetings. You can figure out who to contact by entering your address on this website. You can also reach out to your city councilmember, your county supervisor, and your neighborhood council.
Have another question about life in SoCal? Ask it below.
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