Noise Frequently Asked Questions
Why do planes fly over my house?
There are several airports in the Phoenix metropolitan area: Sky Harbor, Williams Gateway, Scottsdale, Deer Valley, Glendale, Chandler, Luke Air Force Base and other private airports. In fact, there are more than 15 airports in Maricopa County alone. The FAA regulates and classifies airspace throughout the Valley to separate air traffic both horizontally and vertically. It is inevitable that air traffic will occur over all areas of the Valley, however, overflights may occur more frequently if you reside closer to an airport's flight pattern.
More information on flight paths
Why do planes seem to be flying over my house on purpose?
Pilots, like automobile drivers, tend to select the most direct route possible to their destination. There are also highly visible ground references that provide a tool for pilots and air traffic controllers to use as reporting points to help manage the air traffic into and out of an airport. In the vicinity of Scottsdale Airport pilots are identifying landmarks to initiate their entry into the controlled Airport Traffic Area. These reporting points include 5 miles north and south of Scottsdale Airport, as well as landmarks such as Paradise Valley Mall, Pavillions shopping center, and Pinnacle Peak. It is necessary for pilots to closely watch other air traffic in these areas, therefore they seldom have time to single out one house or yard from another.
Why don't airplane owners get rid of those noisy jets?
Aircraft owners manage their transportation budgets very much like automobile owners; they trade vehicles when it is economically advantageous to do so. For the commercial service airline fleet, the FAA mandated a phase-out program designed to provide noise relief without imposing an undue economic burden on aircraft operators. Currently there is no legislation to require "hushkits" on jets under 75,000 lbs., which is the type of aircraft that operate at Scottsdale Airport.
More information on roles and responsibilities
What causes planes to take off in the direction of my home?
The prevailing wind at the runway determines the initial direction of flight. Often buildings, fences, trees, etc., will diminish wind effects in the surrounding neighborhoods, however, on the open area of the airport, wind at six knots or more usually make it necessary for aircraft to take off into the wind.
Why don't airplanes taking off to the southwest (Runway 21) turn immediately to the east?
Planes generally follow a traffic pattern approved by the FAA and established through the Noise Compatibility Planning process. If departing jets turned to the east when departing Runway 21, they would quickly conflict with Sky Harbor airspace. Additionally, the 1997 F.A.R. Part 150 Airport Noise Compatibility Study determined this procedure would result in an increase in population east of the airport subject to aircraft noise without reducing noise in other areas to the west.
How does weather effect aircraft noise?
In IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions) the visibility and cloud cover are low enough that an airplane must fly to an airport via on-board instruments along a route identified on a published instrument approach procedure. The aircraft will fly at the MDA (Minimum Decent Altitude) to a point at which it has visual contact with the runway and safely lands or must fly the missed approach procedure because visual contact with the runway was not made and a safe landing is not possible. In IMC conditions the aircraft noise is amplified due to the cloud cover containing the noise near the ground. In aviation, safety is always of utmost importance first and in IMC conditions, an increased level of noise should be anticipated.
Who can do something about low-flying planes?
The FAA's Flight Standards District Office investigates low-flying or unsafe flight incidents with a written complaint. Call (480) 419-0111 between 7:30 am and 4:00 PM to learn more about how to report such activities. Airport operators have no legal jurisdiction over aircraft in flight or their altitudes.
More information on noise & low-flying complaints
What can the airport do to restrict noisy planes?
Federal Law prohibits new local new noise abatement restrictions without first conducting a cost-benefit analysis following the F.A.R. Part 161 requirements. Noise regulations enacted prior to 1991 are "grandfathered" and are allowed to remain in place. The 14 CFR Part 161 process requires airports to demonstrate how many residential or other incompatible uses will no longer be included inside the 65 DNL noise contour boundaries by enacting the new noise regulation. Most noise complaints originate in areas far outside the 65 DNL noise contour lines due to the low ambient noise level.
More information on noise compatibility planning
How can citizens and government work together to significantly decrease aircraft noise in our community?
Noise abatement is not a local issue and there is an ongoing nationwide dialog between the FAA, legislators, residents, citizens, industry and other advocacy groups. Significant noise reduction could come from new federal legislation regarding 1.) Hushkits of Stage II aircraft under 75,000 lbs. certificated weight or 2.) A review of the DNL noise metric and adoption of a lower noise threshold than 65DNL, 3.) Reducing the onerous of requirements of the 14 CFR Part 161 process.
More information on noise regulations