NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – It has been six months since Avelo starting flying 737s out of Tweed New Haven Airport. Whether or not you like that may depend on where you live.
“When the planes are taking off or coming in, it sounds like they’re in my bedroom,” said Jean Edwards-Chieppo of East Haven.
But other neighbors don’t mind at all. Kim Makres couldn’t even hear a plane taking off from inside her house, even though it is right across the street from the airport.
“If you had been in the house, you would have noticed how quiet it is, so it is very quiet,” Makres said.
Five years ago, her house got completely soundproofed, complete with all new windows and doors.
“They’re pretty heavy, they’re airlocked. The house is sealed, so quiet,” Makres said.
It cost her nothing. It’s part of an FAA program that pays for soundproofing of some homes.
Who is eligible is based on a noise study. The last one was 10 years ago. About 140 houses got soundproofed after that. Tweed’s Executive Director Sean Scanlon says a new noise study began right after Avelo service began.
Lianne Audette’s house was not eligible for soundproofing in the last study, even though she is right under the flight path.
She got used to small planes over the years, but since Avelo’s 737s started flying, she says small cracks have developed in her walls from all the vibration.
“It’s like an essential tremor, and the whole house does that,” Audette said.
Her neighbor Patrick Rowland has dowloaded a sound meter app and says he routinely gets hit with more than 100 decibels.
“The city has regulations that talk about what the allowable noise is and what the airport is, and none of the Avelo planes meet them at any time of the day,” Roland said.
Scanlon says those regulations are misunderstood.
“What they’re seeing on a personal decibel reader on an iPhone is not what the law is about. The law is about the plane’s technical capabilities, and these planes do comply with the law,” Scanlon said.
So the airport does not actually monitor noise levels. Those planes also burn fuel with lead in it. That leads to environmental concerns.
“Who is measuring the toxins? Who is measuring the air quality? Who is measuring people’s health impacts,” asked Gabriela Campos.
“We can now model noise based on the number of planes we have. We can model air pollution based on the number of flights we’re projected to have in the future,” Scanlon said.
Neighbors say a computer model can’t possibly determine what is actually happening in their neighborhood, but Scanlon says modeling is what the FAA is telling them to do.
“That is the way in which all these airports are doing that, and that is what the FAA is requiring us to do, and that is what we are doing,” Scanlon said.
The next thing they are doing is expanding the airport, building a new terminal and lengthening the runway by 1,000 feet. Avelo officials say that will actually help with the noise.
“Ironically, a longer runway will bring a little quieter noise because you don’t have to use too much thrust in theory, right? And you don’t get on the reversers so rapid when you stop, because you’ve got more distance to stop,” said Greg Baden, Avelo Chief Operating Officer.
To expand, the FAA requires what’s called an environmental assessment.
“And it looks at everything from traffic to the wetlands, to noise, to health, all of these things that we take very seriously,” Scanlon said.
So far, that has not happened. Any physical expansion cannot happen until the assessment is done. Avelo keeps expanding its schedule, though. Business leaders think that is great.
“They’ve become an important business for our community. They are not just here with a couple of flights. They’ve put New Haven on the map,” said Garrett Sheehan, CEO of Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce.
But some neighbors still wonder how so much can change before the changes are studied.
“All this is going forward, but we don’t know what the impacts are yet because they’re ‘under studies.’ We should know that first,” said Alana Haroskewicz.