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Tue, May 29, 2007

Hawaii Residents Complain Of Increasing Noise From HNL

Blame "Informal" Runway Program For Traffic Over Neighborhoods

Residents of Hawaii's Ewa Beach are increasingly frustrated about what they say is increasing noise levels from Honolulu International Airport, especially at night, and they're letting state and federal officials know.

At the heart of the growing controversy is not only the increased number of lower flying jets, but a runway system that seems to encourage such traffic over populated areas.

Aircraft flying into HNL are able to land on two runways: Runway 4 Right, which takes aircraft out over water, and Runway 8 Left, which goes out over Kalaeloa and lower Ewa Beach and is the shorter of the two runways, according to the Honolulu Advertiser.

The state Department of Transportation developed an "informal runway use program," also known as the "preferential runway use program" that requires all large, heavy and military turbo jets to use Runway 4R between 7 pm and 7 am, away from residential areas.

But there are some who believe pilots prefer to land on Runway 8L because it is shorter and uses less fuel. Pilots can request Runway 8L at night by claiming "aircraft operational necessity," which is but one of several allowable reasons.

"If you're going to allow (a pilot), and he wants to go home, sure he's going to use it," George Palfi, a Japan Airlines pilot who lives in the affected area and flies into Honolulu several times a month, said after a public meeting with state Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration officials last week.

At the meeting, FAA and DOT officials declined to speculate about why pilots would or would not request to use Runway 8L at night, but would rather look at it  from a safety standpoint.

"The way I look at airport operations, we want to make it as safe and efficient and effective as possible," said Jim Pratt, DOT air site operations manager in Honolulu. "And if a pilot tells me that he needs to - due to either an emergency or operational necessity -- use a particular runway, I'm not going to second-guess him."

Residents at the meeting said they want pilots to file a report if Runway 8L is requested at night, according to Palfi. He said there's no reason why Runway 4R can't be designated as the primary runway.

Following the meeting, DOT spokesman Scott Ishikawa said his agency is looking at placing more noise-measuring monitors under the flight path and promised better communications with community officials if something like an emergency happened that would translate into increased use of Runway 8L.

Robert Rabideau, FAA air traffic manager in Hawaii, encouraged legislators to see about the possibility of a noise compatibility study of Runway 4R. He acknowledged planes may, indeed, be flying lower than they used to.

Pratt agreed. "The answer to this question is the political process," he said.

State Sen. Will Espero and Rep. Kymberly Pine told those at the meeting they would seek congressional involvement.

FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said Friday while he did not have numbers showing any recent change in Runway 8L usage, he did know the number of flights in and out of HNL dropped from 414,000 annually in 1991, to 318,000 in 2006.

But Kiran Polk -- general manager of the Iroquois Point Beach Club, a subdivision in the affected area -- disputed Gregor's figures. She says the number Gregor cites do not consider how many, when and the types of aircraft using each runway. She said the government needs to also consider that of 1,463 rental units at the former Navy housing development, 1,090 are now rented, and indicating substantial area growth.

"I want them to stop flying Ewa Beach in the evenings," said Pine, who complains of being frequently awakened by planes rattling her Ocean Pointe home. "They wouldn't do it over Waikiki, so why won't they do it for the people of Ewa Beach?" At the very least, they should go back to higher flight patterns."

FMI: www.honoluluairport.com

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