The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

FAQs

1. Airport Runways

Airport runways are at the center of airport design. Runways facilitate the arrivals and departures of aircraft. In order to efficiently facilitate aircraft operations, runway alignment is based on prevailing winds, available airport property, and types of aircraft serviced. Flying into the wind provides the greatest margin of safety when landing or departing at any airport. Most airports have multiple runways in order to accommodate flight operations in varying wind and weather conditions, and more efficient movement of aircraft to and from the airport (departures and arrivals). Runway location also dictates airport terminal design, taxiway structure, and other related airport facilitates.

Runway are named based on their heading, e.g., for LGA airport, Runway 04/22 is facing approximately magnetic heading 40° in one direction, and 220° in the opposite direction. If an airport has parallel runways, these would then be marked Left, Center and Right, e.g. 22L/22C/22R.

2. NY/NJ Airspace

The northeast regional airspace for the New York and New Jersey area is a complex system of air navigational routes. The arriving and departing flights for each airport have to be separated while maintaining a safe flying altitude, as well as horizontal separation between aircraft at all times. FAA controls the airspace and separates the aircraft while maintaining prescribed routes that have been researched to be the safest and most effective for noise abatement.

1. How can I submit a complaint or inquiry about noise?

The primary means of submitting an aircraft noise complaint or an inquiry with PANYNJ include: (1) by completing and submitting the form on the Port Authority’s website (http://www.planenoise.com/panynj/daPRAbr9/), or (2) by leaving a voicemail on the airport noise complaint hotline (1-800-225-1071), or (3) by using the WebTrak website (http://webtrak5.bksv.com/panynj4).

2. What happens after a noise complaint is submitted?

Noise complaints are collected with the help of the Port Authority’s PlaneNoise complaint management system. Each noise complaint received is verified for accuracy, compiled in a database, analyzed, and mapped for reporting.

3. Why do planes fly over where I live?

The area where you live may be under an aircraft approach or departure route that is set by the FAA Air Traffic Control (ATC).  For safety reasons airplanes land and take off into the wind and must follow standard flights routes or procedures developed by FAA Air Traffic Control (ATC). Aircraft approaching an airport typically follow the ILS (Instrument Landing System) as instructed by the FAA ATC to land safely. An ILS approach to a runway provides pilots with vertical and horizontal guidance that begins roughly 10 miles from the airport on a direct approach path to the airport and is primarily used during low visibility conditions. In an ILS arrival procedure, pilots are required to establish themselves on this path on a continuous three-degree slope, which will guide them safely and directly to the runway for landing. The three-degree slope translates to about 300 feet of decent altitude for every mile flown.

4. Why do I see many planes overhead on one day and none the next day?

Air traffic activity fluctuates because the direction and intensity of the wind are constantly changing with changing weather patterns. FAA will direct aircraft to use the runway that allows for the safest take-off or landing.  Aircraft generally need to take off and land into the wind.  Therefore, depending on the direction and intensity of the wind, there may be little or no air traffic in a given area one day, but more air traffic on other days.

5. Why do some planes fly lower than others?

FAA air traffic control will assign an approach altitude to arriving aircraft several miles before landing. These assigned altitudes vary depending on air traffic at nearby airports and weather conditions. Wind and weather, in addition to the aircraft type and weight, will also affect the speed and altitude of ascending or descending aircraft. For instance, a departing large heavy jet aircraft will typically have a slower climb rate than that of a small light jet aircraft.

6. Why don't all aircraft fly over non-residential areas during departures and arrivals?

The routing of aircraft over non-residential areas is always preferred, but many factors determine arrival and departure paths (e.g., weather, runway availability, pilot preference, airspace constraints, other safety concerns, and the like). Safety is the No. 1 priority of the Port Authority, the FAA, and aircraft pilots. FAA air traffic controllers manage aircraft operations to keep aircraft at safe distances from one another, maintain safe flying altitudes, and maintain safe horizontal separation between aircraft, while maintaining prescribed routes that have been researched to be the most effective for noise abatement and safety. FAA’s air traffic controllers will also rotate usage of runways whenever feasible to lower impacts to any given area.

7. Why do aircraft overhead sound louder at night than they do during the day?

Nighttime noise events are perceived to be louder because the ambient or background community noise is generally lower at night and there is increased sensitivity to noise during normal sleeping hours.  Therefore, more noise events may be noticed at night compared to daytime hours when there exists a higher ambient noise level.

8. Why do aircraft overhead seem louder on some days than others?

Generally, the amount of noise emitted from a particular jet aircraft does not change from day to day. However, several factors may affect the sound level heard by an individual at a given location. The reverberation of sound waves caused by weather may make noise seem louder than it actually is. Common factors responsible for this phenomenon include:  variations in air temperature; wind speed and direction; humidity and precipitation.  For example, cloud cover tends to bend sound waves downward toward the ground and that can increase the sound heard by a person on the ground.

Another factor is the performance of aircraft. Aircraft and their engines are more efficient when operating in cold winter weather when the air is drier and less dense than in the hot, humid summer months. Therefore, during cold weather, the aircraft engines operate optimally and allow faster climb rates for departing aircraft than during hot and humid weather.

9. How is a particular runway selected for use?

FAA designates runway usage based on safety, weather, surrounding air traffic, and maintenance/construction activities at an airport. According to the FAA, its runway selection criteria in managing air traffic in the region are as follows (in order of decreasing priority): 1) Runway Availability, 2) Prevailing wind and weather patterns, 3) Operational efficiency, and 4) Community noise concerns. At all times, the safe operation of aircraft will be the primary consideration. Although only the FAA has the authority to designate active runways, the Port Authority encourages the FAA to use runways with less impact on communities so long as such usage is safe and does not unduly delay aircraft.

1. How can I track flights and noise levels in my community?

Aircraft movements and noise levels at noise monitoring locations near airports can be viewed through the Port Authority’s WebTrak System. For each aircraft, WebTrak provides specific information regarding aircraft type, altitude, aircraft movement, origin/destination airports and flight identification.  Click here to access the Port Authority’s WebTrak.

Noise levels reported on WebTrak are in A-weighted, instantaneous sound pressure level readings. Loudness is the ear’s impression of a particular sound’s strength and it is measured in decibels (dBs). The loudness of noise, however, does not necessarily correlate with its sound level. To account for the way in which the ear responds to different frequencies of sound, an adjustment measurement is used and it is called an A-weighted reading (dBA). The adjustment’s main effect is that lower and higher noise frequencies are given less weight because the human ear is less sensitive to them.

2. What is the source of flight tracking data?

Flight and aircraft surveillance data are provided by the FAA’s System Wide Management (SWIM) program that collects both the flight track and flight identification information from all available FAA surveillance sources. This data is incorporated into Port Authority’s Airport Noise and Operations Monitoring System (ANOMS), and uploaded for WebTrak usage.

1. What is ambient noise?

Ambient noise is constantly and spontaneously occurring background noise. Car engines, sirens, dogs barking, wind blowing and birds chirping are some of the sounds that combine to make up the ambient noise.

2. How is noise measured?

Noise levels are measured in decibels (dB). The higher the decibel level, the louder the noise. Distance diminishes the effective decibel level reaching the ear. Here are some examples of how loud certain common sounds are:

3. What Causes Aircraft Noise?

Aircraft noise consists of engine noise and airframe noise. Engine noise emanates from fans and compressors inside the jet engine. Airframe noise is generated when air passes over the plane’s body (the fuselage) and its wings. This causes friction and turbulence, which make a noise. Sources of airframe noise include the fuselage, main wings, landing gear and wheelbays, trailing edge flaps, leading edge slats, etc. Typically, engine noise is the dominant aircraft noise source during takeoffs, while airframe noise is a bigger contributor to noise source during landings.

4. What are some common noise metrics used for aircraft noise?

A variety of descriptors, or metrics, have been developed for describing sound and noise. Some of the most commonly used metrics are:

  • Maximum Level (Lmax): the highest sound level recorded during an event or over a given period of time.
  • Sound Exposure Level (SEL): a way of describing the total sound energy of a single noise event.
  • Equivalent Sound Level (Leq): may be used to define cumulative noise dosage, or noise exposure, over a period of time.
  • Day/Night Average Sound Level (DNL): the 24-hour average sound level for the period from midnight to midnight, computed after the addition of 10 decibels to the sound levels for the periods between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.

The Port Authority is the operator of the largest airport system in the United States including John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), LaGuardia Airport (LGA), Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), New York Stewart International Airport (SWF), and Teterboro Airport (TEB). Managing aircraft noise impacts at an airport is the shared concern of many parties, including the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), airport owner/operator, air carriers, local governments, communities, and aircraft manufacturers.

1. Airport Owner/Operator

The Airport Owner/Operator is responsible for the development and maintenance of infrastructure to support safe and efficient airport operations. The airport operator is primarily responsible for planning and implementing actions that manage the effects of the aircraft noise in communities surrounding the airport. The airport operator can regulate some activities at the airport that create noise (e.g., location of engine maintenance run-ups to address ground noise), but does not have authority to alter flight tracks and airspace procedures. The airport operator can encourage FAA to implement noise abatement procedures to minimize noise exposure. The airport operator may also manage noise complaints, noise monitoring, and flight tracking systems.

2. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

The Federal Aviation Administration (Air Traffic Control) is responsible for the safe movement of aircraft both in the air and on the ground. Runway assignments, headings, altitudes and other directions to pilots are assigned only by FAA air traffic controllers. Safety is the number one consideration of the FAA. Overall, FAA’s noise-related responsibilities include regulatory actions governing aircraft noise certification, aircraft operational restrictions, approval of noise abatement procedures, pilot and flight regulations, and noise compatibility studies.

3. Airlines and Pilots

As users of the airport and airspace system, pilots are responsible for operating their aircraft safely, while in compliance with federal aviation regulations governing flight and Air Traffic Control instructions.  Airlines determine their own schedules, frequencies of operation, the markets that they will serve, the fares to charge and types of equipment to operate. Airlines are also responsible for retiring, replacing, and retrofitting older jets in accordance with FAA regulations. The pilot of an aircraft has the ultimate responsibility for the operation of the aircraft. It is up to the pilot to follow FAA-approved noise abatement procedures, while adhering to all safety measures.

4. Local Government

The municipalities and counties near airports can develop and implement land use planning, zoning, and housing regulations that promote land use near the airport that is compatible with airport operations.

5. Communities / Residents

Communities surrounding an airport are vital to aircraft noise management. Residents, businesses and organizations in areas surrounding an airport can provide input to FAA, airport operators, and airlines regarding their concerns associated with aircraft noise exposure. They can provide their concerns to the Port Authority by (1) completing and submitting the form on the Port Authority’s website (http://www.planenoise.com/panynj/daPRAbr9/), or (2) leaving a voicemail on the airport noise complaint hotline (1-800-225-1071). In addition, the Port Authority’s Part 150 Noise Compatibility Planning effort provides multiple opportunities for community involvement.

Click here for more information regarding the ongoing Part 150 Studies for JFK, LGA, EWR and TEB airports. Member of the community can also participate in community forums held specifically to address airport-related issues. Click here to learn more about community roundtables at JFK, LGA, EWR and TEB. Persons considering relocating to an area near an airport should acquaint themselves with noise and flight corridor information prior to moving.

1. What is a Noise Compatibility Planning?

An Airport Noise Compatibility Planning Study conducted under Part 150 of Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations investigates existing and future noise conditions, flight patterns and land use surrounding an airport. A Part 150 study generally will include Noise Exposure Maps (NEMs) for the airport and recommendations to abate and/or mitigate noise impacts. Click here for more information regarding the ongoing Part 150 Studies for JFK, LGA, EWR and TEB airports.

2. What Does Non-Compatible Land Use Mean?

A land use is not compatible with airport operations if it is a noise-sensitive land use (e.g., dwelling, school, house of worship, hospital, others) that is exposed to aircraft-related noise at levels above that prescribed by the Federal Aviation Administration (14 CFR Part 150, Appendix A, Table 1 –  https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2011-title14-vol3/pdf/CFR-2011-title14-vol3-part150-appA.pdf)

3. What does DNL mean?

DNL is the acronym for Day-Night Average Sound Level, which represents the total accumulation of all sound energy, but spread out uniformly over a 24-hour period. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) established DNL as the primary metric for aircraft noise analysis and expressing aircraft noise exposure in the United States. The calculation of DNL (expressed in decibels) considers the time of day an aircraft operated and applies a 10-decibel correction to nighttime (10 p.m. to 7 a.m.) sound levels to account for increased annoyance due to noise during the night.

4. Where can I get more information?

General information about Port Authority’s Part 150 studies, public workshop materials (including presentation boards and enclosed documents), project reports, and other materials are available at http://panynjpart150.com.  Also, you may sign up to be included in Part 150 Study mailing list for each airport by clicking the following links: JFK, LGA, EWR, and TEB.

5. How can I be involved in Port Authority’s Part 150 Noise Compatibility Planning Studies?

The Port Authority has several ways you can participate.

  • The project website (http://panynjpart150.com) is updated regularly with project documents, meeting announcements, and other general information about the study. Go to the website to join the mailing list and receive project updates.
  • To make comments, give feedback, or ask questions on the 14 CFR Part 150 Study, please email us at NYPart150@panynj.gov or NJPart150@panynj.gov.

Also, public workshops will be held periodically throughout the study during which the Port Authority will provide the public an opportunity to be updated on the Study’s progress and to provide input to the Port Authority and its consultant. The Port Authority will provide advance notice of the public workshops through notices in local newspapers, press releases, and on this website.