Paine Field as a source of airplane noise

Friday, June 28, 2019


By Larry Vogel
From our friends at My Edmonds News

With the long-awaited return of warm weather, we’re at last spending more time outside, and opening our windows and doors to let in the fresh air and sunshine. But for many, something else is coming in along with that – more noise from passing aircraft.

No, it’s not your imagination.

According to the monthly noise reports compiled by authorities at Everett’s Paine Field, there has been a marked increase in citizen complaints about aircraft noise since the March 2019 start of commercial flight operations

These reports chart the number of flight operations and compares this with the number of noise complaints received. 

They reveal a slight uptick in flight operations, reflecting the addition of 24 commercial flights per day (note that each flight involves two operations, a landing and a takeoff, so commercial flights have added 48 operations to the total), but show a 10-fold spike in noise complaints.


So what’s going on? Are the planes flying lower? Do their routes take them directly over populated areas? Are the aircraft being used for commercial fights particularly noisy?

Turns out there’s no simple answer, and according to Paine Field spokesperson Scott North a number of factors are in play.

“Many folks are under the misconception that flight paths represent set routes that aircraft take when approaching or taking off from our airport,” he explained. 
“While the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) provides flight path maps as a general guideline, how each plane approaches and leaves the airport is determined individually by the FAA air traffic controllers in the tower. 
"Factors including wind direction, time of day, visibility conditions, presence of other aircraft and more determine the minute-to-minute decisions of the controllers about altitude, flight path, turns and when to speed up or slow down for each individual aircraft in the airspace. 
"The goal is to manage air traffic congestion to maximize safety, and this frequently results in considerable variation from the general flight paths laid out on the FAA maps.”

Regarding the aircraft themselves, according to North both commercial operators at Paine (Alaska and United) presently use only Embraer 175s, which along with the Boeing 737 are the two aircraft approved under the FAA environmental assessment to operate commercially from Paine Field. Presently no 737s are being used for commercial flights.

While these are both modern, relatively quiet aircraft, North was quick to point out that other planes using Paine Field are much noisier.

Boeing DreamLifter is a frequent source of noise complaints

“We also support frequent military operations including the ‘growler’ fast-mover fighter jets typically associated with the Naval Air Station on Whidbey Island, as well as regular takeoffs and landings of Boeing Dreamlifters,” he explained. 
“Dreamlifters, essentially supersized Boeing 747s adapted to carry big cargo loads, keep the supply of large airplane components flowing to the Everett Boeing assembly lines. Both these aircraft have always been major sources of noise complaints.”

Regarding the recent uptick in reports of noise concerns, North concedes that this does coincide with the March advent of commercial flights from Paine. He cautions though that much of this increase is “coming from a handful of people making multiple reports” (in April 2019, for example, 53% of noise complaints originated from the same five households). And he adds that many may be the result of aircraft associated with other airports (e.g., SeaTac, Boeing Field, Whidbey Naval Air) passing through the Paine Field airspace but not taking off or landing at Paine.

Paine Field terminal

While the exact number of operations per day varies, Paine Field currently supports up to 400 operations daily, which includes the 48 commercial takeoffs and landings, military and general aviation. Asked about the possibility of future increases in commercial operations at Paine, North would only say that at this time there are no applications for more flights, and that should any be received they would be subject to the full FAA review and approval process.

If you are being bothered by what seems like increasing aircraft noise, North urges you to fill out and submit an online noise complaint report on the Paine Field website.


Anonymous,  June 28, 2019 at 2:47 PM  

So,,, people move near an existing airport then complain about airplane noise? How are they even taken seriously?

clayboy56 June 28, 2019 at 5:09 PM  

Requiring a specific date and time [for each] report seems like a big onus to the community. No wonder the majority of reports as cited have come from a few dedicated neighbors. (Geeze.) Booooo!

Unknown June 30, 2019 at 4:31 PM  

Yes, more planes and noise with planes flying lower and lower. Sometimes I worry about their ability to adjust fast enough to avoid collisions or crashes with other planes. In addition, I have also noted more and more drones sharing air space that sometimes seems to be dangerously close to planes flying at lower speeds and altitudes. I think the planes should fly at higher altitudes and I worry that they could be too easy of a target for a crazy drone pilot or worse. And, flying so low may not give the pilot good options for where to put down, in a worse case senerio. Seems safety for all concerned, including the public along flight pathways should be given more consideration.

Anonymous,  July 5, 2019 at 10:08 AM  

There has been a huge increase in airplanes flying over Lake Forest Park. These are not only Everett planes but Seattle planes. The Seattle planes are flying over Bellevue and coming down the west side of the lake. There was not near the airplane traffic before March.

Mark and Margot September 10, 2019 at 11:04 PM  

I completely agree with the statement about a lot more airplane noise in Shoreline in lake Forest Park coinsiding with Paine airfield opening up for commercial flights. It has had an impact on my health and well-being because it has impacted my sleep patterns. It has made being in our backyard no longer a peaceful experience. many of my neighbors have been talking about this all summer and I will encourage them to file official complaints. We didn't sign up for this when we bought our houses, or get to choose whether or not it happened to our neighborhood.

Unknown September 28, 2019 at 11:20 AM  

We are in Mountlake Terrace, on the King County Border. I looked at the frequency of the planes, watch in hand. There are times were every 45 seconds a plane is going over the house. We use the flight tracker on the phone and saw, that there are many planes which come from all over the States , are send North in order to land against the South Wind. There is a plan , Greener Skies over Seattle, which were meant to sent the planes over the Sound. Does not look like it is used. The real low flying planes are the once to Paine Field . We had one flight from Japan which was so low, that the windows rattled and the house was shaking. We ran out because we thought it would crash. It was just over our tall trees. The other day we had 3 very low planes going to Paine. We could read which airline they were. It is not only a nerve wrecking thing to have those low flying planes over the house, it is a safety issue. Does a plane first has to crash before they will listen to us? Unless we stand together, nobody will listen.

Mary December 7, 2020 at 8:18 AM  

To "anonymous" who wrote "people move near an existing airport then complain about airplane noise? How are they even taken seriously?"...yes, we moved near an existing airport, but at the time the airport was used very differently and there was no plan to change the use. The dramatic increase in commercial air traffic at Paine Field has had a correspondingly dramatic impact on decreased quality of life for the surrounding community. I might add, the surrounding community is, or was, a desirable place to live and property taxes (and other taxes) reflect that. It'd be nice to at least be able to hold an outdoor conversation, which is impossible when the propeller planes are overhead, or the low-flying jets or the heliocopters, or...and these aircraft fly 24/7, unlike some airports that limit times planes can approach and take off. That would be a huge relief. I agree with the person who noted the increase in drones. They are everywhere, including in my driveway and backyard!

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