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Mon, Feb 27, 2006

Witham Airport Joins Neighborhood Group Against Loud Aircraft

Sound Initiative Wants National Ban On Stage I and II Jets

If you can't beat 'em... join 'em. That seems to be the message behind a truce, of sorts, between officials at Witham Field in Stuart, FL and that airport's most vocal opponent -- the neighborhood watchdog group Witham Airport Action Majority. The airport decided last week to join the Sound Initiative lobbying effort, a group bent on phasing out all Stage I and Stage II aircraft within the next three years.

Airport manager Mike Moon told the Treasure Coast Palm that Stuart Field will kick in half the requested $10,000 fee to join the lobbying group, with the county funding the rest with hoped-for contributions from the city of Stuart, the county, homesowners associations and groups like WAAM... among others.

"We want to go out into the county, to the homeowners association impacted by jets," Moon said.

The county decided to join Sound Initiative after reviewing its proposal. The municipal governments of nearby Boca Raton and Delray Beach are already members of the group, Moon added.

Martin County's move to support the Sound Initiative is also likely intended to ease tensions between the airport, and the neighborhood that sprung up around it... but the decision has been met with muted support at best.

David Shore, the president of the neighborhood association, said the group would contribute a nominal amount towards the membership, at best. He added the group has been a nonpaying member of Sound Initiative for several years, so the group could keep abreast of developments in anti-noise measures.

Bill Frondorf with the Noise Advisory Committee said Martin county should raise the tax on jet fuel to meet its requested share of $10,000 -- which would mean that operators of noncompliant aircraft under the proposed ban would be paying to support the obsolescence of the aircraft they're fueling.

Stage I and II jets, the loudest aircraft allowed to fly from GA airports, make up approximately eight percent of the general aviation fleet. Early Falcons, Gulfstreams, Hawkers, and LearJets (right) make up the bulk of remaining aircraft out there that aren't at least Stage III compliant.

In 1990, the federal government began to phase out non-Stage III aircraft weighing more than 75,000 lbs gross weight from operating at GA airports. A ban enacted by Naples, FL officials on Stage II aircraft in 2002 -- which was upheld by an appeals court in 2005 after a protracted legal battle with the FAA -- resulted in the federal agency pulling that airport's funding.

The proposed ban is not without its benefits -- Boca Raton officials estimated that by eliminating the loudest jets, the number of people living within areas subjected to jet engine noise averaging 65 decibels or higher would drop from 2,180 to 125.

The proposed legislation would also allow local agencies to advise the government they would not prohibit the loud jets. Noise allowances and procedures are determined by the FAA through Part 161 of the FARs, accessible at the first FMI link below.

Sound Initiative was started by government, environmental, and anti-noise proponents at Morristown Municipal Airport in New Jersey, Ohio State University Airport in Columbus, OH, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

FMI: www.faa.gov/arp/ane/forms/far-161.txt; www.airnav.com/airport/KSUA

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