The Tenets are a set of solution-neutral guiding principles that we fall back on when charting our proposals.
The tenets give us a principled basis for justifying solutions, and a process for developing them.
1. Noise abatement is not a charity
Air traffic can severely affect thousands of people living underneath, and mitigating noise impact is not a last-priority task. There is an acceptable cost for protecting residents’ quality of life.
There is an economic impact to noise. Property values decline. Thousands of people whose lives are disrupted (whether by stress, lack of sleep, or any other symptom) are clearly less productive. People become upset at the airlines and become averse to flying. There’s an ongoing mental burden on people, and it has a cost.
There is a moral aspect to the noise problem as well. In a free country, people expect to have recourse when government (or private) action results in an adverse effect on their lives.
The flying public (of which we are a part) is perfectly accepting of the principle that a flight route is 10 miles longer in order to take a quieter path – even if it adds a dollar to the price of the ticket.
1a. Use geographical features
Specifically, in many cases there are routes that have much reduced noise impact, but add some distance to overall flight path.
For example, SFO southern departures can remain off the coast until Monterey bay instead of overflying the entire peninsula length wise. The added cost is about 10 miles, out of a total route length (to LA) of 450-500 miles). The FAA should mandate that, and the airlines should treat this as part of the cost structure of the ticket.
2. Noise patterns should not be moved
Flight routes are like freeways. They have a history, and communities grow in relation to them. When home owners buy properties away from a freeway, they have a reasonable expectation that the freeway won’t be moved next to them.
There are a few exceptions to this principle, in that sometimes new freeways have to be built, but such changes are normally documented ahead of time in master plans, and they certainly do not occur just to save the trucking companies a few miles.
2a. No “Hit and Run”
The FAA cannot move a noise pattern, and then use this rule as an excuse to avoid moving it back and fixing the problem.
There’s a very clear legal analogy here. If your TV was stolen, and you found it at someone else’s house, even if that someone bought it in good faith, you’ll get your TV back. The judge won’t tell you that “property can’t be moved”. The damage was done when the property was moved in the first place.
When noise patterns moved, we lost our quality of life. We found it a few miles away, and we want it back.
Putting the noise back on its historical route is not a case of “two wrongs don’t make a right”. It’s a case of righting a wrong, but not being able to undo some damage that was done in the interim.
For example, both BIG SUR and SJC arrival routes were shifted by a few miles, impacting communities that were specifically settled by people looking for a pristine quiet place to build their homes at. The FAA should modify the new flight procedures to mimic the old flight paths.
3. Noise impact should not be concentrated
1000 people experiencing 100 flights per day is WORSE than 10,000 people experiencing 10 flights per day.
Computer acoustic simulations may be good at predicting how noise propagates, they are very bad at predicting how people will react to the noise.
The impact of non-stop air traffic, airplanes that are less than two minutes apart and create noise events that last almost a minute is absolutely devastating.
3a. Dispersion does not count as “moving noise”
While the dispersion of noise patterns clearly has to be worked out with all affected parties, it does not, in and of itself, stand in contradiction to the second tenet.