South Charlotte

Another lawsuit aimed at airport noise

Another airport-related lawsuit is brewing, and this one is spearheaded by a Park Crossing resident.

Last week, four dozen southwest Charlotte residents sued Charlotte/Douglas International Airport for damages, claiming noise from the airport's new 9,000-foot-long runway, which opened in February 2010, has lowered their home values. The homes are within a few miles of the airport but are outside the "noise-mitigation" area the airport provided sound insulation for.

The other lawsuit hasn't been filed yet but is being organized by south Charlottean and attorney Will Terpening.

It's unrelated to the new runway, but it's an issue that has plagued some residents for nearly two years.

The flight paths in and out of the airport changed in 2010, bringing hundreds of planes over south Charlotte neighborhoods and surrounding communities - some 10 to 20 miles from the airport - that used to see little air traffic.

Previously, pilots used radar technology to take off and land, which made for a less-precise flight path. But new procedures from the Federal Aviation Administration now have planes nationwide outfitted with satellite technology that allows them to follow a narrow, well-defined flight pattern designed to improve capacity and efficiency on runways.

Air-traffic control lines that used to fan out are now more streamlined.

But neighbors say the noise from the concentrated flights is thunderous, especially on weekends.

"This is a large, large movement," Will Terpening, who is organizing the research for the lawsuit pro-bono. "This is a situation that affects tens of thousands of people."

Last fall, south Charlotteans started organizing. Terpening helped build the website www.fairaircharlottetoday.com, which outlines the issues, has flight-path maps and offers advice for touching base with the mayor, city council members and airport officials.

The group also has a Facebook page, Fair Air Charlotte, and Twitter account, FairAirCLT.

Terpening said he's been contacted by hundreds of concerned people from all over Charlotte in the last six months.

The city of Charlotte owns and operates the airport, which is the seventh-largest in the nation in terms of aircraft operations.

Before making the switch to satellites, airports in the United States were required to do noise studies on the areas in the immediate vicinity.

If the Yearly Day-Night Average Sound Level, or DNL, was above a certain level, the airport could apply for FAA funding to help with noise mitigation. But the FAA requires airports to conduct studies only in their immediate vicinity, and Charlotte/Douglas has complied with all federal regulations.

Concerned residents have met with Jerry Orr, aviation director of Charlotte/Douglas, and they've written letters to the mayor and city officials.

Orr told the Observer in June that the airport, airline and FAA personnel are working to decide what is best.

But the residents haven't seen any results, Terpening said.

"The issue is getting them to do something with our concerns," he said.

Terpening is quick to differentiate between their worries and those of the southwest Charlotte residents upset over the new runway.

People who buy a home even relatively close to the airport are more aware of what they're getting into, he said. That's not the case for residents of Park Crossing and these other areas now under the new flight paths.

The neighborhood would like for the planes to pass over at a higher altitude, which would decrease the noise in the area.

Terpening said they will file the lawsuit before the Democratic National Convention in September.

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