A Model (Madison, WI)

A model Noise Abatement Program: My phone meeting notes with MSN Noise Abatement Officer Lowell Wright (January 14, 2016) — I have shared these with the Airport Commission and CNAPC:

At MSN, they started the Part 150 NCP update in 1991 and completed it in 1993. Beginning then, Mr. Wright reached out to residents to establish noise abatement subcommittees. This developed into the noise abatement commission, chaired by the County Board Supervisor of District 12, an affected district. On the commission are two elected officials, two residents, Airport personnel and Air Guard personnel. Lowell also invites neighborhood associations to attend. They meet twice per year in a joint meeting with the Airport’s technical advisory committee, led by Mr. Wright, and whose membership includes someone from Air traffic control, Army Guard staff (they have Black Hawk helicopters like we do), an aircraft owner from their AOPA (flying club), corporate pilots from corporate aviation, and other people in the industry who also live in the community. These individuals bring to the table information regarding procedures and restrictions (visual, weather, visibility, airfield conditions). As it should be, safety trumps. But all complaints (whether due to civilian or military aircraft noise) go to Mr. Wright, who then responds and follows up. He prefers for it to be centralized since that ensures a smoother operation and more resident satisfaction. If the complaint is due to their Air Guard operations, he’ll ask the resident if they wish for someone from the Air Guard to follow up, in which case Mr. Wright forwards the information to their PR office. He requests to be copied on any follow up correspondence from the Guard.

He told me that they do not follow strict bylaws or Robert’s rules because there is a friendly environment, civil and professional. It was “borderline combative” 7 or 8 years ago, he said. And when I asked what made it possible for there to be a friendly atmosphere now, he said “being open and listening to the residents” and treating all complaints equally as seriously. “I don’t single out the outliers (because that only agitates the public), and I like to throw all complaints into the one bucket.” “That builds trust.” Also, the “65 DNL contour is entirely on Airport property.” When the Noise Abatement Commission makes recommendations, the status of their recommendations becomes an agenda item on following agendas. The Airport also publishes an E-Newsletter, Air Currents:

Here is what they have accomplished regarding noise abatement:
– a hush house for the military aircraft
– a blast wall for air carrier ramp
– a new runway
– land acquisition
– approach and departure procedures
– an Aviation/Navigation, or “Avigation” easement to the north of the Airfield, which few people took advantage of due to the high property values; yet, they’ve been successful so far in keeping new subdivisions from developing north of the Airfield.

Part of Mr. Wright’s job is also to educate elected officials, pilots of transient aircraft, tower personnel, the FBO, and Guard, explaining why something has to be done in a certain way or what residents’ concerns are and how they might be addressed. Mr. Wright is truly a model for what can be done in terms of making for good neighborly relations.

This is not his only job. He said he wears many hats: noise abatement, environmental/stormwater, wildlife management, and in general Airport operations. The first three take on average 2 days/week, or 1/3 of his time each, with highs and lows for each depending on the season. Noise abatement tends to be more a part of his job in the wintertime. However, noise is not a full-time requirement, according to him. (I asked him about staffing questions).

In my opinion, his leadership and the Noise Abatement Program at MSN (Dane County Regional Airport: https://www.msnairport.com/about/ecomentality/noise_abatement) are really an excellent model for us here due to the similar size, the proximity of residential properties, the Air Guard, Black Hawk helicopters, etc.

Here is another page from the website, Noise FAQs, which is really helpful for residents:

Meaghan Emery
South Burlington City Councilor