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New F-15 approach safe, but no more noisy

MY VIEW • Air National Guard proposal has received thorough examination
by: Tribune File Photo, A pair of F-15 fighter jets depart the Oregon Air National Guard base at PDX for a training flight. Some Cully neighbors oppose the additional flyovers; others don’t mind too much.

Thanks for letting me share my personal thoughts regarding the story 'Roar of F-15s has Cully neighbors wary of more' (Aug. 27), which describes the 16-month test of the continuous descent overhead approach and is specially designed by the Oregon Air National Guard to satisfy its training requirements while trying to be good neighbors.

Members of the Air National Guard, the Port of Portland noise office and volunteer members of the Citizens Noise Advisory Committee have met with legislators, city commissioners, citizen groups and neighborhood associations, including the Cully Neighborhood Association, regarding this test.

Contrary to a statement in Jennifer Anderson's article, nothing in this proposal included or suggested additional training flights out of Portland. In fact, there would not be one additional takeoff or landing at PDX if the port approves this proposed approach.

As you noted, the noise levels measured during the tests varied between 65 and 70 decibels - the equivalent of normal conversation three feet away and a vacuum cleaner at 10 feet. A few measurements made at Helensview High School on 'fly day' were around 73db, but only for a few seconds at most. Heavy traffic, a transit bus or a few motorcycles well exceed this noise level for longer periods of time.

Reactions to aircraft noise are usually more emotional than rational. Shaking and vibration from aircraft are not noise and most likely come from propeller aircraft or the Air National Guard's F-15s during takeoff - not from this approach.

On Sept. 10, after once again hearing from a number of concerned citizens (almost equally divided pro and con), a resolution was introduced recommending the Port of Portland approve the continuous descent overhead approach. After considerable committee discussion, the recommendation was approved by Citizens Noise Advisory Committee and submitted to the port, which will now review and ultimately act on the recommendation.

Statements by committee members Joe Smith (Multnomah County) and Paul Speer (city of Vancouver), both longtime pilots who stressed the inherent safety of overhead approaches, were compelling. Smith further stressed advisory committee's charge to address PDX aircraft noise and pointed out this approach reduced what he called the total perceived noise for the Portland area.

The very restrictive parameters of approval of the continuous descent overhead approach require the Air National Guard to only use Runway 28L, only between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, only during weather conditions greater than a 5,000-foot ceiling and five miles visibility, and only using a two-jet maximum formation. Of course, as with any airport approach, the FAA air traffic controllers must approve the approach based on traffic conditions at the time. All of these restrictions limit the number of approaches possible each month.

In addition, the citizen committee will receive reports every six months on the number of continuous descent overhead approach operations and number of complaints attributed to those operations for study, discussion and any further action deemed necessary.

Stephen D. Kerman is vice chairman of the Citizens Noise Advisory Committee. These comments are his own and not intended to represent the opinions of the Portland International Airport Citizens Noise Advisory Committee or the Port of Portland.