When David Morgan moved into his new home in north Belmont nine years ago, he welcomed the peaceful setting.
A former resident of south Charlotte, he was fed up with traffic jams and noise. The 6 1/2 acres he bought near Belmont Abbey College reminded him of a bird sanctuary.
But beginning in mid-December, Morgan said a steady flow of low-flying jetliners from Charlotte Douglas International Airport began cruising over his house. It’s not a 24-hour problem, but Morgan said one night he counted 32 low-altitude planes between 8 and 9 p.m.
He said he felt assaulted by the noise.
“The constant roar is annoying,” said Morgan, 62, an information technology engineer. “I can’t sleep, and (I) wear headphones when I work on the computer. I take naps with them on. And sitting on the porch and enjoying the quiet – it’s over, finished, done.”
Morgan said his complaints to the Charlotte airport, Federal Aviation Administration and elected officials have gotten him nowhere.
Meanwhile, he has started a petition on www.MoveOn.org and plans to launch a direct mailing campaign that calls attention to the noise. His goal is for the noise to stop.
Headed “Stop CLT Airport Noise Dumping,” the petition includes background stating that because of changes made at the airport “the jet noise volume increased and complaints were filed by those to the north of the airport.”
According to the petition, the city has “decided to redirect the majority of its northern departures, thereby dumping the jet noise onto their Gaston County neighbors instead.”
“People around here better wake up,” Morgan told the Observer. “Property values will be destroyed.”
In a letter to Morgan, Kevin Hennessey, community programs manager with the Charlotte airport, said Morgan lives 5.7 miles northwest of the airport on a route that has been used since 1979, when runway 18C/36C was opened. When the airport is using a north departure, aircraft fly mostly north of Morgan’s home, Hennessey said.
When the airport is using a south departure, planes fly mostly west of Morgan’s home as they arrive at the airport, Hennessey said, adding that flights are mostly at an altitude above 5,000 feet.
Although the city of Charlotte owns and operates the airport, Hennessey said it has no say in which or how many aircraft use the airport or how they operate in the air. Aircraft operations are under the control of the Federal Aviation Administration, he said.
“Even though we cannot control flight paths, we nevertheless receive complaints from hundreds of residents of Mecklenburg County, York County and Cabarrus County about aircraft noise,” wrote Hennessey. “The City of Charlotte and the management of this airport regret that any of our citizens are distressed by seeing and hearing aircraft in the skies over the region. We wish it were possible for us to operate the airport without any dissatisfaction from residents.
“Unfortunately, that is not possible and we routinely receive and respond to complaints such as yours. The airlines serving the airport operate over 1,600 flights per day at the airport and there is scarcely anyone within 20 miles of the airport that does not share in your experience to some degree. We regret that we can offer you no relief from your circumstances.”
An FAA spokeswoman said the agency “has not made any changes to departure or arrival routes for Charlotte-Douglas International. Airport.” Likewise, Katie Cody, with American/US Airways, the dominant carrier at Charlotte’s airport, said nothing has changed.
In 2014, the FAA took public comment on a modernization plan that should reduce noise by changing the way flights take off and land. The comment period has been extended to Feb. 2, and the FAA will hold another public workshop, which will feature graphic displays that describe the draft environmental assessment, including proposed changes. The workshop is scheduled for Jan. 22, from 5 until 8:30 p.m., at the Carole A. Hoefener Center, 610 E. Seventh St., Charlotte.
FAA technical experts will be available to explain the displays and answer questions about the study. Attendees may submit written comments at the workshop, as well as online and by mail. The draft is available at www.metroplexenvironmental.com.
Finding common ground
To date, 17 people have signed Morgan’s petition, including Dinah Booth, who lives in a mobile home off U.S. 74 in Belmont. She began noticing the noise about two months ago.
“I work at nights and sleep during the day, and it started waking me up,” she said. “I wondered what in the world was going on. It sounded like a war zone. Then I finally figured it out. An airplane was waking me up.”
Booth said when she hears plane engines going “boom-boom-boom, it almost feels like it’s shaking my trailer.”
“I know (planes) have to go somewhere,” she said. “But a better route would be great.”
Vearline Ballard, who has lived in the same location near Mount Holly for 50 years, also started hearing low-flying planes about two months ago.
She stays up late watching television in bed, and “you can hear the noise even above the TV,” said Ballard. “It aggravates me.”
She signed Morgan’s petition because “I wanted people to know he was telling the truth.”
John Panosh, who lives in the Steele Creek area of Charlotte, supports Morgan because “I’ve been fighting the same issue since 2010.”
Panosh said his complaints about jet noise have come to nothing.
When he connected with Morgan, “we found we had common ground,” Panosh said. “I shared some information with him. I’ve been through the fight he’s facing. I was glad to sign his petition. I understand.”