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Wed, Nov 16, 2005

Can The FAA Help Make Hilton Head Island Quieter?

Area Residents Call Airport Noise Intrusive

The FAA told Hilton Head Island, SC residents Monday that taking pilots or the airport to task over noise won't help solve anything -- no matter how much noise the residents themselves might make.

"[The pilots] are not breaking any rules right now," said Steve Kelley, manager for the FAA's airspace redesign project. "Challenging pilots legally is not something that's going to have any merit with us."

Instead of calling and complaining -- to the airport, or to a lawyer -- the three FAA representatives told residents to be patient, and await the findings of the Part 150 noise study currently being conducted at the airport, according to The Island Packet newspaper.

The study, which is expected to be completed by next summer, might lead to changes in flight paths -- or even to buildings themselves, with the addition of new soundproofing being one of the suggested methods to combat airport-related noise.

The FAA reps were invited to speak to the group of about 50 residents, pilots and local officials by the airport's Community Relations Committee, which was formed last year specifically to address noise complaints.

Several residents and pilots in attendance exchanged heated words over the airport's importance to the area, according to the newspaper. One critic, Perry White, openly questioned the sincerity of the FAA's answers, saying the agency promotes pilots' concerns, and not necessarily those of residents.

That drew a response from 35-year pilot Ross Russo, who compared the call for restrictions on the airport to concerns he had when he bought his house next to a busy local street.

"[The road] makes noise and I didn't know," Russo said sarcastically. "And I want to know, can we get it moved?"

The FAA representatives agreed noise-reduction measures need to be taken, including promoting those already in place -- such as Hilton Head's existing noise abatement procedure.

"I had no idea there was a voluntary noise abatement procedure," said Ward, who flew to the meeting. "And I'm in the FAA, for crying out loud."

One potential issue, however, may be the fact that, according to the FAA, there isn't enough air traffic at Hilton Head Island to warrant tighter controls -- despite calls by residents to limit the number of airplanes allowed to use the airport to help reduce noise.

In any case, it all comes back to the noise study.

"That 150 study is your way of getting some changes made," said Mark D. Ward, an air traffic manager in the FAA's Atlanta office. "That really becomes the way you do things."



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