Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Part 150 Study?
A Part 150 Study is a voluntary study that is initiated by an airport sponsor to determine ways to reduce noise over residential and other noise-sensitive areas. It also aids in the determination and planning of compatible and non-compatible land areas surrounding an airport. The purpose of the recently approved Part 150 Study is to evaluate existing conditions and recommend proposed noise abatement and land use management measures intended to reduce the impact of aircraft noise on residents and land areas surrounding the airport.
Why are your noise abatement procedures voluntary and not mandatory like other airports?
The FAA established the 65 DNL noise contour line as the threshold limit for the determination of compatible and non-compatible land uses to airport operations. As the airport's 65 DNL noise contour line is within the boundary of the airport and does not impact residential and other noise-sensitive areas, the FAA approved RSW noise abatement procedures as voluntary.
What should prospective home buyers in Lee County do before purchasing property?
The Port Authority can help you learn about the flight patterns, peak travel month and potential noise impact areas from aircraft operations. We provide modeled computer-generated flight tracks that show predominant aircraft flight patterns with the operation of the current and planned parallel runway. We encourage home buyers to visit properties at several different times of the day and during various seasons. For additional information, call the noise program office at (239) 590-4624.
When do most planes depart or arrive at RSW?
Airlines design their schedules for the convenience of their customers. The heaviest travel periods are early to mid-morning and mid-afternoon to early evening. Cargo aircraft operate late-night and early-morning flights. Aircraft can access RSW at any time of day or night.
Why do so many planes take off and land in the same direction?
Planes must takeoff and land into the wind, so the direction of arrivals and departures is determined almost exclusively by wind direction. Approximately 80 percent of takeoffs annually are to the northeast with landings from the southwest. About 20 percent of takeoffs annually are to the southwest with landings from the northeast and east. The Federal Aviation Administration is in charge of air traffic control at RSW.
Over what areas do planes most often fly?
Residents living within 35 miles of any major metropolitan airport can expect to see aircraft at some point during the day. Aircraft can deviate from one of the predominant flight patterns due to wind direction, speed, storms, instructions from air traffic controllers and safety, etc.
How close to the airport may residential areas be developed?
The Lee County Port Authority has been proactive in establishing noise overlay zones through the county's zoning process and prohibits noise-sensitive development within the limits of the 60 DNL noise contour line rather than the 65 DNL (the threshold limit established by the FAA for compatible noise sensitive uses to airport operations) noise contour line. In the future, land areas within Lee County located within the 55 DNL or greater noise contours will have notices advising of aircraft noise and over-flight exposure recorded in the official county records.
What do complaints represent to the airport? To the public? If there is a significant difference, what does this mean?
- Airport management maintains a sense of the public sentiment through the administration of a program to address community noise concerns. Furthermore, airport management utilizes this point of contact for public education purposes and attempts to discern between the realities and the subjective nature of complaints. Centralized communications with the public about aircraft noise complaints also allow the opportunity to identify problem areas and, sometimes, an opportunity to correct something before it becomes a greater issue.
- The public wants to have complaints documented and sometimes seeks information. Most of all, the public seeks change in the condition; they want the noise to go away. People are concerned about aircraft noise and complain because they would like to see changes occur. At times a call may alert the Noise Program Office of an unusual noise event(s) and/or a recurring problem that can be investigated and resolved. However, a noise complaint may not bring about an individualsdesired change. The noise comment line provides individual's the ability to express their concerns about aviation noise at RSW.
- People file complaints for different reasons and have different expectations. The Port Authority tries to be responsive to the public and can take action when appropriate and when able to, but some callers will be frustrated when they learn that changes cannot be made. Other callers are satisfied that they have "gone on record" and have voiced their concerns.
Why doesn't RSW have a curfew or rules similar to those at other airports?
In 1990, Congress passed legislation that made it extremely difficult for airports to initiate curfews or other noise and access restrictions. This federal legislation "grandfathered" all existing noise/access restrictions at other airports that had such restrictions. These airports already had noise restrictions that were allowed to remain in place. RSW has a voluntary Noise Abatement Program which emphasizes noise abatement operational procedures and pilot education.
My house is not supposed to be under the flight path, so why do I get over-flights?
RSW's modeled flight tracks/corridors are often used by pilots under ideal conditions. Factors such as weather, FAA Air Traffic Control Tower instructions, safety and the presence of other aircraft will often dictate a flight path that is different from the voluntary modeled noise abatement flight tracks.
What good does it do to call-in or send a noise comment email when the noise abatement procedures are voluntary?
Pilot education is a major part of our noise abatement program and the noise comments assist the airport in this effort. The noise comments are compiled into quarterly and annual reports that allow the airport to see trends which assist staff in enhancing the education program.
What are the rules regarding how low an aircraft can fly over a residential area?
Aircraft altitude is established by Federal law. Title 14, Code of Federal Regulations Section 91.119 which governs flight states:
"Except when necessary for takeoff or landing, no person may operate an aircraft below the following altitudes:
- Over congested areas. Over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons, an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of the aircraft.
- Over other than congested areas. An altitude of 500 feet above the surface, except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In those cases, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.
- Helicopters. Helicopters may be operated at less than the minimums prescribed in paragraph (b) or (c) of this section if the operation is conducted without hazard to persons or property on the surface. In addition, each person operating a helicopter shall comply with any routes or altitudes specifically prescribed for helicopters by the Administrator."
It is important to be aware of two aspects of this regulation. First, most aircraft operating in the vicinity of RSW are in the process of landing or taking off, thus this regulation does not apply. Second, helicopters are specifically exempted from this federal regulation.
Why do I always get aircraft flying over my house during bad weather?
Modeled noise abatement preferred flight corridors are used frequently during periods of good weather. During periods of reduced visibility (rain, fog, etc) aircraft must use an Instrument Landing System (ILS). The airport's single runway is oriented in a northeast and southwest direction and there are instrument approaches from both these directions. During these periods, residential areas northeast and southwest of the airport will be impacted by aircraft over-flights. Aircraft on approach to land at RSW are allowed to descend to a minimum altitude of 1,600 feet as approved and published by the FAA.
Why do airplanes fly out of the corridors?
There are many reasons, sometimes beyond the airline's control, why a jet may fly out of the preferred voluntary noise abatement corridors. These include traffic conflicts, weather, air traffic control directives, safety considerations, aircraft performance and pilot technique.
It seems like the airport has been operating on the same flow pattern for days. Is this fair?
Wind and weather dictate which runway end or flow direction (northeast or southwest) the FAA can use. If Fort Myers is in a persistent weather pattern this may force the FAA to rely on the same runway end for a long period of time. But, this being Southwest Florida, it's unusual for the same runway end to be used 24/7 for consecutive days, given the variety of wind speed/directions that occur.
Who tells the pilots where and when to turn?
Commercial pilots fly prescribed routes to and from RSW as instructed by air traffic controllers. The FAA is responsible for managing RSW's airspace and for ensuring the safe and expeditious flow of traffic.
Why do some aircraft seem louder than others?
Aircraft operating at RSW have a diverse range of noise levels. These noise levels primarily depend on the type of engine used by the aircraft, the size of the aircraft and whether the aircraft is taxiing on the airfield, landing or taking off. The newest so called "full Stage 3" aircraft tend to be the quietest aircraft in the fleet. Aircraft with Stage 3 "hushkitted" engines tend to be the loudest. See (Noise Glossary for clarification on Stage 3 versus hushkits). Departures tend to be louder than arrivals since the pilot is forcing more power to the engine to achieve lift.
Which flight corridor impacts me?
Aircraft associated with RSW tend to fly within broad airspace corridors as the FAA directs aircraft to and from the airfield. If you live within one of these corridors, you will likely experience aircraft over flights, however, other land areas not under the modeled flight tracks can be impacted. How and to what frequency any particular land area is impacted depends on, the weather, the runway end being used, the type of aircraft, aircraft engine characteristics and relative distance from the airport. The Noise Program Coordinator can assist you to better understand this relationship between where you live and aircraft over flights.