Noise concerns divide airport, community in Naples, Florida

June 8, 2023

Ongoing noise concerns at Naples Municipal Airport in Florida have community members calling for airport operation restrictions while airport advocates fight to convince officials of the benefits of the field.

Citizens in Naples have been attempting to curb noise emissions from the airport users for decades, but in recent years efforts to pressure the Naples Airport Authority (NAA) to restrict operations have intensified.

Calls for restrictions range from implementing curfews on airport operations to moving city services and flight schools to alternate locations.

Since the mid-1980s, the Naples airport has undergone three voluntary FAR Part 150 studies, which measure airport noise compatibility. The studies, including the most recent submitted to the FAA for approval earlier this year, have cost the NAA approximately $2.2 million to date. More than 100 public and stakeholder meetings have been held, according to NAA Executive Director Chris Rozansky.

A Part 150 study produces two deliverables: noise exposure maps and a noise compatibility program. Noise exposure maps for the Part 150 study still underway at the airport were accepted by the FAA in December 2021, and the draft for the noise compatibility program was submitted to the FAA in February. The agency has 180 days to respond. The noise compatibility program includes a number of noise mitigation strategies for implementation.

In a November 2022 City of Naples Joint Workshop Meeting, airport advocates, city council members, and passionate members of the community gathered to discuss the issue, and several members of the council and the public expressed frustration with the lack of measurable noise reduction. Naples Vice Mayor Michael McCabe told the room and viewers, “The Part 150 was never going to address your concerns,” and called for alternative noise reduction solutions.

The council is interested in controlling the volume of aircraft using the airport and concerned that discounts and services offered at Naples Municipal might increase use of the airport and future operations growth. With multiple Part 150 studies completed and members of the public witnessing no tangible difference in noise, everyone wants to know what comes next.

When posed the question, Rozansky alluded to lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C., and an FAR Part 161 access restriction study as a possible, albeit challenging, next step. Naples Mayor Teresa Lee Heitmann said the challenge is “one we are willing to take on.” If successful, the Part 161 study would allow mandatory restrictions to airport operations that could include a nighttime curfew.

But mandatory curfews and restrictions may be an elusive goal. “A Part 161 study is a multimillion-dollar, multiyear process,” said AOPA Government Affairs Aviation Policy Specialist Bill Dunn. “In my 34 years of airport advocacy, there has never been a successful conclusion to a Part 161 study that has allowed any mandatory airport restrictions to be implemented.”

AOPA supports the balanced approach that the Part 150 process takes to mitigate noise impacts while protecting airport access, and strongly opposes council suggestions to restrict operations. Naples Municipal Airport, like many successful, high-traffic general aviation airports across the United States, provides tremendous benefits to Florida’s southwestern region. A 2022 Florida Aviation Economic Impact Study found that the airport generates $781 million in economic activity and helps support nearly 6,000 jobs. It also accommodates critical public services like the Collier Mosquito Control District, Collier County Sheriff’s Office, Collier County EMS MedFlight, and an Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting station.

The airport is an integral alternative to the larger air carrier airports in southwest Florida. Personalized services with no crowds, less surrounding traffic, and less security hassle make it attractive for business passengers and student pilots alike. And Naples locals can benefit from access to youth STEM-education opportunities.

In the midst of the community wrestling over airport noise, local pilots and airport advocates have revived the Friends of Naples Municipal Airport. The organization’s mission is to ensure fair and accurate facts are available to the public as they relate to the airport and the community that it serves. AOPA has supported the efforts of the Friends of Naples Municipal Airport since its formation in 1999 and will continue to advocate for the Naples airport, and its users, to operate as allowed under federal statutes and regulations.

Source: | Written by Lillian Geil