Leaders Call for Community Collaboration on Noise

 - March 24, 2022, 11:43 AM

The business aviation community must remain focused on working collaboratively with airport sponsors and surrounding communities on fly-neighborly initiatives and voluntary noise-abatement programs to preserve continued access for aircraft owners and operators, NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen told lawmakers.

In testimony provided to the House aviation subcommittee, Bolen noted the “long history” the industry has in working with communities on voluntary and fly-neighborly programs. Operators have followed mitigations such as flying at higher altitudes and maximizing flight paths over water, he said.

Fly-neighborly efforts are in place at airports such as Van Nuys, Santa Monica, and John Wayne Orange County in California; Rocky Mountain Metropolitan in Denver; and Teterboro in New Jersey, he said.

Other efforts, such as the FAA’s NextGen initiatives, are helping manage noise through technologies and procedures that improve efficiency and safety but reduce the environmental effect. “Business aviation operators have embraced these technologies and procedures and have invested in equipping their aircraft,” Bolen said. Furthermore, technologies continue to advance, creating quieter aircraft.

However, despite these efforts, he added, “a small number of communities have made attempts to impose restrictions limiting access, such as curfews, weight and noise limits, on their airports.”

Bolen said lawmakers play an important role through the continued support of federal grant and deed obligations. “We encourage engagement from local, regional, and national elected officials in these initiatives as we all must ensure continued, unhindered access to our national system of airports to meet the current needs and projected growth.”

Joby Aviation founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt, meanwhile, testified on the importance of noise design considerations for electric aviation to realize its goal of improving cities and communities through lower emissions and faster and more affordable ways of travel.

“These benefits can only be realized if the industry can design planes quiet enough to blend into their surroundings,” Bevirt said in his testimony. “While replacing noisy combustion engines with electric motors helps to address the acoustics of vertical flight, achieving truly quiet flight requires careful design considerations throughout the aircraft.”

Bevirt added makers of electric aircraft must consider both quantity and quality of sound their aircraft emits, given the inherent complexities of noise. He noted the Joby eVTOL has roughly 100-times less acoustic energy than that of a traditional rotorcraft.

Joby has strived to lower the noise profile of its aircraft through the use of electric motors that create very high torque, “which enables our propellers to spin powerfully at low revolutions per minute (RPM) while still generating substantial lift and thrust,” he said. This is paired with lightweight propellers that are capable of the lower RPM spins and that incorporate lightweight blades optimized for lower noise.

A series of flight tests conducted in September using NASA’s Mobile Acoustics showed that the design met the company’s acoustic targets and resulted in a small noise signature compared with existing helicopters.

Bevirt also stressed the importance of collaborating with communities to remain good neighbors. “Creating a fast, sustainable and quiet aircraft are essential steps, but we must also be good citizens and neighbors in the communities whom we plan to serve,” he said.

House Transportation and Infrastructure chair Pete DeFazio (D-Washington) called on doing “everything we can to ensure we reduce and mitigate noise impacts,” saying in his opening statement that “aircraft noise has the potential to cause sleep disturbances, contribute to hearing issues, and adversely affect a person’s physical and mental health.”