The Airport Noise and Capacity Act (ANCA) of 1990 severely limits airport operators from imposing curfews or any other type of access restrictions. Under ANCA, the airport operator must undertake a successful Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 161 Study demonstrating that the curfew reduces or eliminates incompatible land uses. FAR Part 161 establishes a program for reviewing airport noise and access restrictions on the use of Stage 2 and Stage 3 aircraft. Part 161 requires that airport proprietors examine the costs and benefits of a proposed noise or access restriction within an “airport noise study area” with a goal of reducing the amount of incompatible land uses. That area must include all property that lies within the 65 DNL/CNEL dB contours. At this time, there are no incompatible land uses within the 65 CNEL at Mather Airport. Therefore undertaking an FAR Part 161 Study is not viable for Mather Airport. It is important to note that airports that had access restrictions in place prior to the passage of ANCA (e.g. San Jose, Long Beach, John Wayne in Santa Ana) were allowed to keep them via a “grandfather” clause in the legislation establishing ANCA.
I live 15 miles from Mather Airport in El Dorado Hills; why do aircraft arriving to the airport overfly my home? Can this be changed?
Runway 22L at Mather Airport is the runway used primarily by arriving air cargo and military jets. The arrival flight path to Runway 22L passes over El Dorado Hills. Runway 22L has the Airport’s only Instrument Landing System (ILS), which provides the precise navigational landing guidance during inclement weather conditions, and therefore the highest margin of safety. The ILS follows a 3-degree glide slope to the landing threshold; this is standard across the country. This provides the pilot guidance on altitude while approaching the runway. Most aircraft using the ILS will be at the same altitudes as they approach the Airport. Navigational fixes make up the ILS approach procedure. For Runway 22L, the navigational fixes are GADBE, YOSHE, LDOOR and CAMRR as depicted on the map below. As shown, most arrivals into Mather come from either the south or east of Mather. Therefore, areas south and east of the final approach course are subjected to overflights by aircraft intercepting the ILS final approach course. The ILS’s technical specifications require alignment with the runway centerline, which, when combined with prevailing wind direction at Mather Airport, basically eliminates the option of relocating the existing final approach course or reducing its utilization.
Yes. FAA regulations generally allow for helicopter operations at lower altitudes than fixed wing aircraft, so long as a safe landing can be made in the event of an emergency. Often when helicopters are observed to be circling at low altitudes over extended periods of time, they are public safety operations conducted by either police or fire-fighting crews. There are no altitude restrictions on flights of this nature.
There are also military helicopter operations in the vicinity of Mather Airport due to the Sacramento Army Aviation Support Facility of the California National Guard being based at the Airport. The Guard operates their missions for training and in support of state agencies during emergencies. Additionally, training missions are sometimes conducted by the Guard and other branches of the military over Lake Folsom.
The existing arrival, departure, and training flight paths for Mather Airport have been developed for operational safety, efficiency, and noise exposure reduction. The runway orientation at airports is the primary driver in determining where flight paths will be located. Additional items to consider in developing flight paths include the proximity of other area airports and airspace constraints, terrain constraints, and compatible land uses. The idea of “sharing” noise sounds simple enough, but it is in reality very difficult to achieve a broadly effective and equitable balance on such a subjective and sensitive subject. Most often such efforts end up only shifting noise from one community to another, instead of actually providing a solution to address noise exposure concerns. For this reason, it is extremely rare that the FAA supports the implementation of new flight paths for the purpose of noise mitigation.
For most airports, the noise is already “shared” because the arrival, departure, and training flight paths are typically located over different areas. In addition, the variability in the aircraft position for a particular flight path changes with each aircraft due to pilot technique, weather conditions, and other air traffic in the vicinity. These considerations typically mean that one community does not receive all the noise exposure from an airport. This arrangement is true for Mather Airport. The arrival, departure, and training patterns for the Airport are varied and are located over different areas.
Since the Nighttime Noise Abatement Procedures are voluntary rather than mandatory, do they really work?
The current noise abatement procedures do assist in controlling and minimizing aircraft noise exposure and have evolved over the years to address concerns raised by residents, especially those north of the final approach course for runway 22L, including Fair Oaks, Citrus Heights, Folsom, El Dorado Hills, and other communities. We believe there is still more that can be done, which is why we continue to work with the aircraft operators and the FAA to improve strategies designed to reduce noise. The majority of aircraft noise abatement procedures used around the country are voluntary in nature. The FAA is responsible for the safe and efficient movement of aircraft once their wheels leave the runway and has historically been reluctant to adopt mandatory noise abatement procedures. As a result, we must rely on the air carriers and the FAA to adhere to these procedures on a voluntary basis. The consistent cooperation we’ve received from the aircraft operators and the FAA in developing and implementing such procedures at our facilities has been effective in reducing aircraft overflight noise exposure.