TAMPA — As ongoing construction at Tampa International Airport redirects airplanes to new runways, some South Tampa residents are already tired of dealing with the noise of more planes flying over their neighborhoods.
Relief for local residents likely won't come until September, Hillsborough County Aviation Authority board members said during a regular meeting Thursday. But some residents worry that long term plans for growth at the airport will exacerbate the problem and ultimately lower their property values.
A South Tampa resident, John Few, expressed his concerns during the public comment part of the meeting. Few said that the engine noise from jets is the worst during peak travel hours, like around 6 p.m. when he's done with work and wants to enjoy his back porch at his home on Treasure Drive. Sometimes he hears planes flying over his house from midnight to 6 a.m., which he said "is totally unnecessary."
"I've owned property there since 1992, but I never anticipated this," Few said. "I'm a reluctant community activist. Both of my parents served on the airport board and I really think we have the greatest airport there is. But it's the airport's responsibility to advocate for the community, and it's their obligation to go to the FAA on our behalf to settle a problem like this."
The number of noise complaints skyrocketed in 2015 to 722 — more than three times the complaints the year before.
"It seems we're getting more complaints than usual in recent months," said Tampa Mayor and board member Bob Buckhorn, who urged airport staff to elaborate on the problem during Thursday's meeting.
John Tiliacos, vice president of operations and customer service at the airport, said that the Federal Aviation Administration created a temporary plan to redirect more planes to land on runways on the east side of the airport as construction has blocked an area surrounding taxiway J. All commercial airplanes landing and parking at terminal airside A have permission to land on the east side of the airport from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, said Tiliacos. Normal operations are expected to resume in September when taxiway construction is completed.
"We have worked very closely with the FAA during this process and have reached out to HOAs covering 10 to 12 communities," Tiliacos said. "We hold bi-monthly meetings with the community about it."
On the weekends and on holidays, most of the air traffic is directed to runways on the west side of the airport, he said. Tiliacos added that less than 2 percent of airplane landings at the Tampa airport violate the FAA's noise policy. Non-commercial aircraft, including charter flights, prop turbo jets and private planes can land on the East runway any time.
"We don't make the rules. We don't land planes. We don't make the policies. That's the FAA," said Janet Zink, spokeswoman for the Tampa airport. "We can't help that they don't like the rules."
But the number of planes that have landed on the East runway in recent years has fluctuated. In 2011, about 2,000 planes landed on the runway on the east side of the airport. In 2012, that number dropped to 950. But in 2012, when the airport closed another runway for a month for a slab replacement, traffic on the east runway spiked to 3,000 landings. In 2014, there were roughly 1,500 landings on the same runway.
In 2015, the airport recorded 3,700 landings on the noise sensitive runway. The number of landings increases for a variety of reasons, which could include weather issues, pilot requests and maintenance projects, Zink said.
The Tampa airport participates in a voluntary noise abatement program, which was established in 1999. In 2001, the airport created a noise office to address resident concerns and monitor pilot compliance with the program.
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