VASHON ISLAND, Wash. - The high-flying expansion at Sea-Tac Airport is showing some downsides as more communities complain about an upturn in jet noise.
In the past five years, Sea-Tac passenger traffic increased 43 percent. Every day 1,200 flights take-off or land at the airport, and up to 250 of those planes are directed over Vashon Island.
One island resident is lobbying for help to measure the impacts of all those overhead flights.
David Goebel moved to Vashon Island 20 years ago to escape the din of city life. However, Goebel said a program called NextGen is sending more flights down a narrow lane over Vashon Island.
“It's the loudest thing around," Goebel said. “Basically destroys the peaceful environment, the reason for living on a rural island."
NextGen is a system designed by the FFA that uses satellites to guide airplanes along precise routes. It’s meant to improve safety and efficiency, but has been challenged in different parts of the country for the noise it brings to some neighborhoods.
About 70 percent of the time, planes traveling to Seattle from the south will fly over Vashon Island, then turn to the right to make a final approach.
Goebel has been lobbying for noise monitors to be installed at each end of the island, adding to a network of 24 already in use.
However, Port of Seattle officials said a previous study found no need for additional monitors, so Goebel started a petition drive.
Goebel wants port commissioners to reconsider requests by residents to install the gauges on Vashon Island. He hopes the data will prove that plane noise has increased significantly, and eventually the FAA will revert to flight patterns used before the introduction of the NextGen system.
“It just drives me to tears,” Goebel said of the noise. “It's basically stolen the whole reason I moved there."
Airport officials have offered to install temporary noise monitors but Goebel said gathering a week's worth of data won't show the extent of the problem. He expects to deliver his petitions to port commissioners in the coming days.
Airport officials said noise may be increasing in outlying areas like Vashon Island but not to a level that qualifies them for programs like noise mitigation funding. The money can be used to pay for noise-reducing doors and windows, sound-insulated walls and roofs and special ductwork. Overall, the port has spent more than $400 million on insulation programs.