Although Centennial Airport was once in the middle of nowhere, it is now in the middle of the south metro area and is the frequent subject of neighbors’ noise complaints. The airport is about to install a new $1.5 million noise monitoring system designed to pinpoint the problem areas and mitigate the problem wherever possible.
If a plane flies over a neighborhood near Centennial Airport and the neighbors don’t complain, does it make a sound?
“Obviously, that’s very subjective and people aren’t home all the time.” said Michael Fronapfel, the airport’s deputy director of planning and development. “Right now, we have no way of measuring the noise effect on the community other than getting it through people in the community that are concerned and calling in noise complaints.”
Those grievances can often rival the volume of airport noise itself, if the 45-year history of Centennial Airport has been any indication.
Founded in 1967 in what was then a rural area of Arapahoe County, the facility has since become surrounded by suburban housing, commercial developments and the sprawling city that now bears the airport’s name.
The confluence of airport noise and residential homes has sometimes made for uneasy neighbors, prompting frequent protests and the formation of a group called the Centennial Airport Citizen Noise Roundtable.
Now, 13 years after the airport began a series of studies on the subject, the facility is preparing to install state-of-the-art monitoring equipment to figure out the ongoing noise issue once and for all. The equipment is being funded by a $1.5 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The network of 12 microphone-equipped monitors will be scattered around the airport in both Arapahoe and Douglas counties, including the cities of Centennial, Greenwood Village, Aurora and Parker. Sound collected will be measured against radar tracking data provided by the FAA.
“We’ll be able to get a hard measurement on the noise impact on the community,” Fronapfel said.
The monitors – essentially microphones on the top of 20-foot poles – will record noise 24 hours a day and send the information to an airport computer system.
After the sound data is studied in the context of flight patterns, Fronapfel says the airport will take action to mitigate consistent problems where possible.
“I want to be careful not to oversell it too much because there are certain areas where we’re not going to be able to do much because of their proximity to the end of the runway. But on the margins, there are certain procedures that we can voluntarily implement. The system will be a useful tool,” he said.
The airport already has a voluntary noise-abatement program and so-called “fly quiet” procedures designed to reduce noise, though pilots cannot always follow those guidelines due to legally mandated altitudes for certain departures.
Plans are for the new monitoring system to be in place by the end of the year with preliminary data collection taking place almost immediately.
“We want to have about a year’s worth of historical data in place by 2014,” Fronapfel said. “We’re really excited about it. I think it’s going to be really useful to figure out where the noise impacts are and have some procedures in place to affect positive changes in the community.”
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