A group of six northwest metro Denver cities and Jefferson County will begin discussing ways to manage airplane takeoff and landing noise in 2021. It’s part of a Rocky Mountain Municipal …
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A group of six northwest metro Denver cities and Jefferson County will begin discussing ways to manage airplane takeoff and landing noise in 2021.
It’s part of a Rocky Mountain Municipal Airport’s Community Noise Roundtable, expected to begin meeting in 2021. Ben Miller, senior planner for the airport, said the cities of Arvada, Broomfield, Louisville, Superior and Westminster have all been invited to name members to the roundtable. Westminster City Councilors agreed Oct. 19 to name City Councilor Kathryn Skulley to the roundtable.
“I actually live in the flight line, so I sympathize with residents,” Skulley said. “I’m hearing a lot of extra planes, most I’ve attributed to the fires. I know we have a lot of planes taking off and leaving all day long to help put out the fires and I’m grateful for that and the people that do that work. But certainly, in the last couple of years, we’ve seen an increase in noise. It will feel good to have someone from our city who can be a part of this roundtable and this conversation.”
Councilors noted the group could only advise and suggest flight pattern changes and Miller said that is true.
The Federal Aviation Administration is the final authority on anything that happens at the airport involving flight paths or operations. But Miller said they make accommodations to airport neighbors.
“They have jurisdiction over the airspace and they are the owners of that responsibility,” Miller said. “They have however, made it clear that requested changes to airspace patterns or flight procedures can’t come from any one community or from an airport, un-vetted without a good public process. So the FAA sees a noise roundtable, with every surrounding community participating, as the only venue with which they would consider flight procedure changes to address concerns about noise.”
Miller said the airport encourages pilots to keep aircraft noise as low as possible, directing them to fly over road and open spaces when possible and reduce engine RPM when they can. The group would discuss other potential changes — including altering flight plans — and make recommendations to the FAA.
“What you don’t want to have happen is to have one community say they want more aircraft over another community,” he said. “They want a well-vetted opinion from all the surrounding communities before they consider it.”
But Miller said the airport’s landing patterns are set by the airports runways, two that run from the northwest to the southeast and a shorter runway that runs from the northeast to the southwest. Weather, especially local wind, also determines which directions the planes use for takeoffs and landings.
“Aircraft take off and land into the wind, and our prevailing wind is from the west,” Miller said. “The mountains also have an impact and the other big factor is the airspace of Denver International Airport. And all of that comes into form the national airspace.”
The airport has been in operation since 1960, and had its busiest year in 1977 with 248,351 operations, defined as an aircraft taking off or landing at the airport facilities. The airport has had its ups and downs with the local economy, going between 120,000 and 195,000 operations per year since 1979.
Airport operations began recovering from a five year lag in 2014 and the airport has gotten busier each year since then, with 195,762 operations in 2019. It’s currently the fourth busiest airport in the state, with more than 400 aircraft based there and about 50 businesses using it as a base.
It’s listed as reliever for Denver International Airport, which means that smaller commercial crafts are directed to the Broomfield runways rather than DIA.
“They do not want to be handling as much general aviation traffic amongst the commercial jets they have landing there,” Miller said. “We, Centennial and Front Range act as those airports. If someone is flying into Denver on a business jet or a small propeller aircraft, they typically choose one of our airports.”
The communities around the airport have grown much faster than it has, Miller said. Population in the surrounding cities — Arvada, Broomfield, Louisville, Superior and Westminster — say a 68 percent increase since 1970, from 79,197 to 338,806 in 2019.
“If you look at this area as a snapshot of time, we have grown about 35 percent in operations while the surrounding community has grown 68 percent,” Miller said. “We will do the best we can to help them address noise complaints. We certainly want to be friendly with the community.”
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