Another West Seattle Town Hall followup: Mayor asks FAA for more comment time on ‘Greener Skies’

After Mayor McGinn’s August 28th Town Hall meeting at Southwest Teen Life Center (WSB coverage here), we brought you followups on two of the issues citizens asked him about – computer access and a bike lane that was about to be built without neighborhood discussion. Now, a third – Alki Community Council president Tony Fragada called the mayor’s attention to the FAA’s public-comment process on the “Greener Skies” proposal, which would (among other things) bring the flight path a lot closer to Alki, Admiral, and the rest of north West Seattle. Today was scheduled to be the comment deadline – after public meetings last week, neither of which was in or near West Seattle (here’s our coverage of the closest one, which was in Ballard). We just got word from the mayor’s office that he has sent the FAA a letter asking for an extension, AND for a meeting on the south side of the city (Beacon Hill is concerned too). Read on for the full text of the letter:

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Greener Skies Environmental Assessment.

Since the public comment period on the Greener Skies Initiative was announced, I have been hearing from residents throughout Seattle about the possible impacts the proposed flight operation changes could have regarding jet engine noise over their neighborhoods.

In particular, those concerned neighborhoods are primarily from areas where flight operations are already a significant issue. While it appears that these new procedures could reduce noise overall and narrow flight paths, it is unclear whether or not these changes might direct flights disproportionately over a specific community, who could then experience greater noise impacts as a result.

The residents of many areas of Seattle are concerned that they have not had an adequate opportunity either to hear from the FAA about these proposed changes or to comment on them. I respectfully request that the FAA extend the comment period on the Greener Skies EA an additional 30 days and in that interim period schedule a public comment meeting in a south Seattle location, as the prior meeting was on the opposite side of the city. I would also like a meeting with FAA staff to receive a briefing to better understand the desired goals of the initiative and how they will be achieved.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

We’ll follow up to see how the FAA replies.

14 Replies to "Another West Seattle Town Hall followup: Mayor asks FAA for more comment time on 'Greener Skies'"

  • Stu September 14, 2012 (3:23 pm)

    Does anyone know whether this will change the flight path for takeoffs? Occasionally, based on wind direction, planes take off to the north and they are much louder than when landing. WSB thanks for following this story, I believe this will have a bigger impact on our quality of life in West Seattle than the FAA is indicating.

  • Yikes September 14, 2012 (3:37 pm)

    Power out again, definitely blown transformer

  • dsa September 14, 2012 (4:30 pm)

    Stu they takeoff into the wind. So northflow takeoffs occur when the wind is out of the north unless something has happened since I left the biz.
    Also I read a comment about only a decibel of SOUND difference. Don’t believe it for a second. Sound is measured on a logarithmic scale like earthquakes are. They are averaging out the increase over a time period, probably 24 hours. How would it work out on the Richter scale for earthquakes if the intensity was averaged out over 24 hours?
    The only thing we have going for us is the latest generation of jets is considerably quieter than previous ones. But they will be in greater numbers.

  • ATC September 14, 2012 (4:55 pm)

    I’m an air traffic controller in the Seattle area, and I can tell you a few things. (I am not speaking on behalf of the FAA, but I prefer to remain anonymous anyway- my employer is uptight about this kind of thing.)

    The approach that they’re talking about here is already in use by Alaska Airlines, which is one of SEA’s biggest operators.

    Aircraft on approach are already significantly quieter than aircraft in level flight or climbing, because their engines are at lower power settings.

    These new RNP procedures are essentially no-engine procedures. The FAA has developed new procedures that stretch all the way back to enroute altitudes, so the intent is that the plane can glide down the entire way from its cruise altitude of 33,000 feet (or higher).

    The procedures also have much stricter navigation than before.

    For people in Alki or West Seattle, what does this mean? Not much. You’ll see more airplanes, flying closer to you than before (that curve over the bay) but they will also be quieter because they’re basically gliders at that point.

    Quite honestly, having planes fly over is part of living in/near a big city or a big airport.

    The main things you folks should take away is this: there have already been a bunch of planes doing these procedures. If they haven’t bugged you yet, then you’ll never notice when more are doing it.

    And in the long run, if you try and fight it, you will lose. I’m not talking smack (I’m a controller, not a lawyer or noise specialist) just telling you- don’t waste a ton of your time and energy or get stressed out over this. The FAA always wins, the new routes are clear of the West Seattle penninsula, and the actual noise that the planes put out is lower now than its ever been in the past- and these are even quieter because of the gliding part.

  • ATC September 14, 2012 (4:56 pm)

    These have nothing to do with departure routes.

  • zephyr September 14, 2012 (5:32 pm)

    Quote ATC: If they haven’t bugged you yet, then you’ll never notice when more are doing it.

    And in the long run, if you try and fight it, you will lose.

    Well, some of us have been noticing the increased aircraft noise and maybe not just spoken up about it yet. As for take off flights, I often see them from Gatewood Hill. Many do swing over the bay and around Alki, but quite a few cut corners. I’ve seen them barreling over Admiral and Fairmount even. I suppose there’s no real feedback on these pilots that do cut over the peninsula. Who do you call and how would you get a wing number or identifying mark to complain about?

    When ATC tells us that the FAA always wins, then why bother with the public comment? Is this just a feel good for the citizenry, but ineffective effort to change things? I am not looking forward to our skies roaring day and night and being told that we have no say in the matter and that we shouldn’t even bother to resist or push back. ~z

    • WSB September 14, 2012 (5:50 pm)

      Zephyr – While I appreciate ATC taking the time to leave a thorough comment, I disagree with the “they always win.” Don’t ever, ever, ever let anyone try to talk you out of saying something. I’ve seen a lot of disappointing and disturbing things in 30 years of media – would be easy to be a total sour cynic by now – but I have seen comments make a difference time and time again, even in small ways, and that’s what keeps me going in the information-providing/finding business, so please don’t ever listen (sorry, ATC) to the “don’t bother” suggestions. – Tracy

  • dsa September 14, 2012 (6:48 pm)

    This is essential, I hope ATC is correct:

    “These have nothing to do with departure routes.”

  • sam-c September 14, 2012 (7:09 pm)

    I don’t know. whenever I am in Capitol Hill, at friends’ places or at Cal Anderson Park, the planes (landing) seem much louder that what I hear at home. which is weird because the planes I hear in WS are taking off, not landing.

    when my Mother in law was in town this summer, she commented on how loud the planes were as we sat out in our yard, and at the time, i thought they weren’t loud at all.

    and OTOH, we tried the ‘camping out in your backyard’ this summer. the planes taking off for red-eye flights around 11 pm or so were so loud and annoying that I had to go inside.

    so, it’s weird, I don’t think we have it as bad as Beacon Hill or Georgetown and the planes at boeing field. but, it seems like you can / or will get used to it.

    and for reference, I love listening to the trains honking their horns at 4 am.

  • wsdad September 14, 2012 (9:42 pm)

    Greener skies??? This is just some old pilot who lives on Queen Ann who does not want the flight path over Queen Ann. He wants to change it so he does not hear the noise. Change the name to greener skies and the typical Seattle person thinks its good.

  • wsdad September 14, 2012 (9:49 pm)

    The “OLD” man on Queen Ann seams to have it in with the FAA. He has been trying to change the flight path for years. Don’t be fooled West Seattle. You will be sorry if you do not fight this.

  • Quieter Skies September 15, 2012 (1:22 am)

    I live on Beacon Hill. The plane traffic is getting worse. Stand up for your community. ATC is incorrect-citizens have forced the FAA to change procedures all over based on citizen complaints, including Orange County, Chicago, Boston, San Diego, etc. Maybe ATC is concerned that he may pick up flight noise. People: things can and will change for the positive if you stand up to be heard!

  • bolo September 15, 2012 (8:50 pm)

    Sea-Tac Aircraft Noise line: 206-433-5393.

    wsdad could that be true? One guy in Queen Anne can get the flight path changed?

    Anyway, I’m going to call. I was working outside around the house most of the day today and yes, there was near-constant objectionable noise from large jets. Imagine what it would be like if their flight path brings them even closer!

  • Susan September 21, 2012 (6:28 am)

    The Greener Skies Initiative is GOOD for West Seattle (and all of Seattle for that matter) — it will make the approach significantly quieter because their engines are at lower power settings. They also approach from a higher altitude. This is a GOOD THING! Susan @ Alki

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