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home : opinion : letters to the editor January 18, 2020

9/30/2019 2:38:00 PM
Airplane Noise In Lincoln County
Map showing actual airplane arrivals over East Lincoln County.
(Photo Courtesy Walter Ballard)

Map showing actual airplane arrivals
over East Lincoln County.

(Photo Courtesy Walter Ballard)

I live in Denver, N.C.  and was recently selected to represent Lincoln County on the Charlotte Airport Community Roundtable (ACR) after I submitted a proposal to reduce airplane noise in my Denver neighborhood.

My column below encourages residents to submit airplane noise complaints.  A significant number of complaints will strengthen the ACR proposed recommendations and encourage the FAA to implement them.

Are you tired of airplane noise disturbing your sleep or interfering with your conversations?
Residents of East Lincoln County are subject to noise from hundreds of jets when they arrive at Charlotte Douglas airport (CLT) from the north. Located due north of CLT, East Lincoln County is directly below the approach paths of three parallel runways named 18R, 18C and 18L.

Actions are being taken to address excessive noise from CLT.
In 2017, the FAA asked the Charlotte Douglas airport (CLT) to form an Airport Community Roundtable (ACR) comprised of 20-25 citizens, airport officials, local FAA representatives, and special aircraft noise consultants, HMMH, who meet monthly. Lincoln County was only recently added to the membership of the ACR, even though the county was not included in the grid being analyzed.

The charter of the ACR is to find practical recommendations for reducing unwanted aircraft noise for the Charlotte community. The current goal of the ACR is to evaluate multiple arrival and departure procedures and to present the most promising recommendations to the FAA by January 2020.

Detailed information can be found at the ACR website:

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What you can do to help.
If airplane noise affects the quality of your life, I encourage you to submit a complaint as often as you experience aircraft noise. Any and all complaints are important. Complaints can be submitted through the internet at or by phone at 704-359-HEAR (4327).

When experiencing excessive noise, make note of the date and time. Additional information such as flight number, altitude and sound level can strengthen the complaint. This information can be obtained with your smartphone by downloading apps from your app store. Search for:

  • “sound meter” will find apps that measure the sound level in decibels (dB)
  • “flight tracker” will find apps that provide airplane type, flight number, altitude, etc.

You can also contact your local, state, and federal government officials to express your opinions about CLT aircraft noise.

Why can this action help?
Recommendations for noise reduction are currently analyzed using a grid 10 miles north, south, east and west of the airport, which does not include Lincoln County. There are currently discussions to increase the grid to include Lincoln County in the analysis.

Having a significant number of noise complaints from the Lincoln County Communities on record will help convince the ACR to expand the grid so that Lincoln County is included in the noise reduction analysis where appropriate. In addition, when the ACR recommendations are submitted to the FAA for consideration it is necessary to show that our residents are dissatisfied with the current level of airplane noise and that changes should be made to reduce the noise.

Additional Flight Information.
Currently, jets arriving at CLT from the north, travel overhead on one of three narrow flight paths (rails) which pass over East Lincoln County. Planes that come from the south travel a narrow flight path (downwind flight rail) heading north before turning to enter the arrival rails. This downwind flight rail passes just to the west of the arrival rails over East Lincoln. In recent years, the closure of the crosswind runway and increase in traffic have increased the number of arrivals over Lincoln County and thus an increase in noise. There is currently a study to construct a 4th parallel runway by 2025 which will further increase aircraft traffic and noise.

Arrivals at CLT use a stepped approach where they descend to a certain altitude and hold for a distance, then descend to a lower altitude, hold again, descend again and so on, instead of a constant descent. This approach in use today requires the airplane to lower flaps and apply power to maintain altitude. Flying lower while increasing engine power results in increased noise.

Two recommendations that would most likely reduce the noise from arriving airplanes for the East Lincoln Communities are the Raising of Downwind Altitudes and the implementation of the Continuous Descent Approach (CDA). CDA is utilized at other major airports and instead of using the current stepped approach, the airplane descends in a continuous glide and does not require power to the engines. This reduces noise and fuel usage.

Additional Noise Information.
Unwanted noise is difficult to describe, but it typically annoys us when levels reach 70 decibels (dB) or higher -- which equates to the sound of a busy highway or a vacuum cleaner. Noise at 65-70 dB is not legally unsafe, according to the FAA, but is a significant contrast to a quiet neighborhood sound level which is typically 45-50 dB.

In East Lincoln communities, airplane noise is typically in a 55-77 decibel range. When residents hear repeated airplane noise at 70 dB every two minutes, often with a duration lasting 30 seconds or more, most become annoyed. I have personally observed airplanes flying over my house at an altitude of 3675 ft (2900 ft above my head) and sound levels at 77 dB.

Sound waves reflecting off Lake Norman will increase the noise for residents living on the lake.

Walter Ballard
ACR Representative for Lincoln County

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