Noise elicits loudest airport complaints |

Noise elicits loudest airport complaints

Courtesy Truckee Tahoe AirportSchematic shows airplane noise patterns.

Airplane noise levels are getting the loudest complaints from residents during the airport planning process.

In a public workshop at Town Hall, Mead and Hunt Senior Airport Planner Ken Brody presented the Truckee Tahoe Airport District’s proposed airport land use compatibility plan. Many of the 20-25 residents in attendance voiced concerns mostly about the noise levels in neighboring communities.

The ALUC is required by the state, and is usually updated approximately every 15 years by airports. The Truckee Airport has finished its draft, and is now gathering comments and ideas about how to improve the plan and better prepare for the airport’s future.

According to Brody, the biggest issues deal with noise, safety, airspace protection, aircraft overflight areas and compatibility zones.

Gaylen Larson, a resident who lives near the airport, questioned why the ALUC shows flight operations (a takeoff or landing) growing, but “noise contours” shrinking. In response, Brody said simply that airplanes are getting quieter.

Even with the estimate of 120,000 flight operations per year at the airport. In nearly 20 years, Brody said the technology has advanced and will advance enough to compensate. The airport currently operates at approximately 48,000 operations per year.

In fact, Don Starbard, president of the airport’s board of directors, said early plane engines produced only one horsepower for every 15 pounds. Now, planes are producing one horsepower for every three pounds, and some are even at a one-to-one ratio. Simply put, aircraft engines are getting lighter and more efficient, he said.

“It comes down to science and engineering,” Starbard said. “Aviation is getting quieter, just like the automotive industry.”

One way a compatibility plan helps is it diagrams what areas around the airport are affected by the noise contours. The data is modeled into a graph, which shows how different areas are affected.

In the noisiest areas – right near the ends of the runways – the ALUC says no development should be built. In the outer areas, the plan says the town could allow low-density housing (less than 0.2 dwelling units per acre) or high-density housing (more than five dwelling units per acre).

Another comment, from Larson’s wife Lynne, pertained to airport size. “Do we want to maintain Truckee as a resort community or do we want it to become another metropolis?” she asked.

While the estimated growth is up to 120,000 operations per year in approximately 20 years, airport assistant general manager Mike Scott said he would be surprised if it reached that number. More likely, he said, it would reach 90,000 or 100,000 operations.

The ALUC plan is far from being implemented, and will go through more public workshops and revisions. Brody said plans in the past have taken anywhere from three months to three years to implement.

For the Truckee Aiport’s land use plan, the public can still comment by submitting a written statement to Betty Riley, president of the Sierra Planning Organization.

Mead and Hunt, an engineer, architect, scientist and planner firm, bases its ALUC on the airport’s existing general plan. The Truckee Airport updated and adopted its general plan in 2000. While the ALUC does not deal with land use in the past, it makes suggestions to guide the future of the airport, as well as notify the public of the airport’s presence.

Public comment can be submitted to Betty Riley through the Sierra Planning Organization’s Web site at, or by mailing it to 560 Wall Street, Suite F, Auburn, CA, 95603.

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