When Congress passed the FAA reauthorization bill late last year, it opened the path for the Jackson Hole, Wyo. airport authority to impose a ban on Stage 2 aircraft (less than 75,000 pounds) without the need for an FAR Part 161 study. Last month the airport issued a notice of proposed rulemaking for its Stage 2 ban. Written comments will be accepted through April 15, addressed to George Larson, Airport Director, Jackson Hole Airport, PO Box 159, Jackson, WY 83001. A public hearing will be held at the airport on March 17.
The proposed ban provides for fines of up to $750 and imprisonment of up to one year for willful violators, but offers exemptions for aircraft with an in-flight emergency and for operations “conducted for emergency medical purposes or in furtherance of the public health, safety or welfare,” including fire suppression and rescue flights. Authorization for such flights would come from the airport director, the Teton County sheriff or their authorized representatives. The proposal further offers postponements for aircraft operators who have contracted to install hush kits on their Stage 2 aircraft, or have ordered replacement aircraft that comply with Stage 3 noise guidelines.
The proposal raises questions of whether the Jackson Hole Stage 2 ban could set a precedent for other airports. To date, no airport authority in the country has successfully completed a Part 161 noise study leading to an FAA-sanctioned ban on Stage 2 aircraft. The Naples Airport Authority (NAA), Fla., completed a noise study that was rejected by the FAA, in part because it used 60 decibels as the benchmark noise level, rather than the 65 decibels as recommended by the FAA. NAA instituted its Stage 2 ban anyway, and the FAA responded by withdrawing federal funding for the airport. The airport has appealed the ruling and the controversy continues.