Plane paths

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Homeowners Fight Flight Paths Over Neighborhoods

July 6, 2018

Homeowners in some affluent neighborhoods across the country are lobbying city and state representatives to fight against noise from overhead planes that fly over their communities since new flight routes were recently implemented. Owners are posting signs in their yards and have even developed technology to make filing complaints as easy as the press of a button.

In 2013, the Federal Aviation Administration’s Next Generation Air Transportation System changed flight paths over major metro areas. Some homeowners suddenly saw flight paths redirected to go over their neighborhoods.

“It’s like a war zone,” says homeowner Sarah Haeffele, who lives in a home over new flight paths out of O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. Haeffele, who paid $835,000 for her Peterson Woods home, says she wears headphones when in her backyard because the overhead airplane traffic is so loud.

An FAA spokesman told The Wall Street Journal that its NextGen program has generated more noise overall. The NextGen flight path overhaul is expected to be completed by 2021.

“Our noise modeling prior to the launch showed that there would be small increases in some places, small noise decreases in some places, and some places would see no change,” he told the paper. “We stand by that modeling.”

Dozens of opposition groups have started among residents in wealthy communities who aren’t happy about the added overhead plane noise. Chris McCann, a former U.S. Air Force test pilot, noticed air traffic noise in his La Jolla, Calif., home was making his TV and a glass wall in his house rumble when the planes went by. He developed “the Airnoise Button,” a custom web application that is activated by pressing something similar to a handheld clicker. The system automatically identifies the nearest aircraft and registers a complaint with the appropriate agency. About 200 people around the country have used the button in registering more than 297,000 complaints. He also recently launched a free, web-based service that allows users to register 15 complaints per month.

Some real estate professionals fear the arguments over the airplane noise could do more harm to home values than the actual planes themselves. Carmen V. Rodriguez, a broker with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Chicago, said he had buyers recently hesitate on a listing in one area when they saw a “Quiet the Skies” lawn sign. The signs are from an activist group, Fair Allocation in Runways, that is trying to raise awareness about the added noise.

“It is FAiR’s perception that some real estate agents are downplaying [the noise problem],” John Kane, FAiR's chairman, told WSJ. However, real estate professionals dispute that claim. They say they are not withholding information about their properties, which is the law in some states.