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Noise Complaints About Revised Flight Patterns Reaching FAA Brass

Complaints of jet noise disturbing the daily routines of St. Thomas residents have reached the ears of the Federal Aviation Administration’s top brass in Atlanta, Ga. There may be relief in sight.
Since mid-November, several residents on the island’s south-east shore – Bakkero, Frenchman’s Bay, Bolongo, Bovoni – have had their powers of conversation disturbed by a change in the takeoff pattern of commercial jets departing from Cyril E. King airport.
Contacted in San Juan, Puerto Rico, FAA support manager Jose Arcadia confirmed a change in departure headings, which were instituted in November for "safety purposes." He said those issues concerned a sequence of departures being too close together.
He said, "I don’t know if they’ve started an environmental study, or if it’s required. We are always sensitive to complaints and treat them very seriously." Arcadia then referred The Source to FAA Atlanta headquarters.
Cathleen Bergen, FAA southern region external communications manager, said Tuesday that the matter is "under review."
Bergen said, "Previous procedures in air traffic control took a look to see if improvement could be made in the flow of traffic, as it pertains to inbound and outbound traffic at the same time. It’s not unusual for us to reexamine flight paths to determine if they can be improved."
Bergen, whose office has received a number of emails and calls, issued the following statement Wednesday: "The Federal Aviation Administration is gathering data on flights that depart Cyril E. King … to determine whether they are following new departure headings that were established in mid-November. The FAA changed departure headings to facilitate the safe and expeditious movement of aircraft from the airport. All changes were reviewed in accordance with FAA requirements. Since the changes were implemented, the agency has received several queries about the procedures. The agency will respond to the inquiries after it finishes gathering and reviewing the flight data."
Bergen said later that a decision should be forthcoming "soon." Though she wouldn’t be pinned down, she said, "a few weeks would be reasonable."
Longtime island residents Frank Hurt and Christine Lauterborn, who live in Frenchman’s Bay, and Bakkeroe resident Virginia Cellura, sure hope so.
Hurt said Tuesday, "The jets from the airport are coming farther east before they turn south. It’s terrible noise, very disturbing."
Cellura, who said she has consulted with several neighbors suffering from the same racket, said, "I’ve lived here eight years. I didn’t think I bought a house in a flight path. I sometimes think the pilots are told ‘Aim for that roof with the dark peach color, my house.’"
Cellura said the noise has "become almost unbearable." She said, "One day a friend and I counted three planes in approximately 20 minutes. I called the local FAA tower and was told to take this up with the local government. I thought the FAA controlled the air."
It does, with individual cities and states sometimes inserting their own policies.
Guidelines for aircraft and airport noise were established by three U.S. acts: the National Environmental Policy Act (1969), and the Noise Control Acts of 1972 and 1989.
The territory has noise-pollution control legislation, but that pertains to terra firma only.
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