2016-11-17 / Around Town

Airport Noise Issue Defies Solutions

By Tom Walsh

Local officials continue to grapple with the steady growth of the state airport in Middletown as nearby homeowners lament new flight patterns that noisily bring planes closer to their homes when landing and taking off.

Despite its Middletown address, the airport is officially known as either the Newport State Airport or the Colonel Robert F. Wood Airpark. Regardless of its name, escalating noise emanating from the airfield continues to bother some of its neighbors. A Town Hall meeting on Oct. 26 attracted an estimated 100 people, many of whom own homes near the airport and are concerned about the situation.

Jay Miranda, who lives with his wife about a half mile from the airport, said in an interview with Newport This Week that an increase in local skydiving has exacerbated the noise problem where he lives.

“In the summer, they seem to be in the air all day long, every day of the week, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.,” Miranda said. “It’s just getting worse and worse. They’re over your house all day long. I find it annoying.”

Activity at the local airport now seems to be more about entertainment than transportation, he continued. “They should be able to regulate an entertainment operation.”

Miranda was one of several airport neighbors who spoke out at the meeting. While others complained about the noise, others said they were not troubled by it.

In any case, there seems to be no easy way to satisfy everyone.

“No one is complaining that there are violations,” said state Sen. Louis P. DiPalma, D-Middletown, who organized the gathering on Oct. 26. “All of these issues were heard. I don’t know what the solution is, but we need to figure something out.”

DiPalma maintained that over the last five years, takeoffs and landings at the airport have increased from about 20,000 to 24,000 annually. He attributed some of that jump in activity to the growing popularity of leisure-time activities such as skydiving and helicopter tours. “There’s been a big increase in skydiving,” he said. “People come in from Connecticut and New York to skydive over Newport because of the view.” Businesses are increasingly using the airport as well, DiPalma noted.

He acknowledged that some flight paths seem to have put planes in the sky at a lower altitude than before as they arrive or depart. “It’s not that anyone is buzzing the houses,” DiPalma said. He hopes that a solution to neighbors’ concerns might be no more complicated than revising flight plans.

The senator said that his calls and emails from those who live near the airfield have picked up noticeably over the past six to nine months.

“It seemed appropriate to have a community forum to hear the questions and concerns of the people who have been contacting me about planes flying too close to their houses, not using standard flight paths, and the increased number of takeoffs and landings,” DiPalma said. The next step will be to meet with Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC) officials.

And after that?

“Right now my take is getting the parties together,” the senator said. “That way we can make sure they understand the issues. At some point there will be a followup meeting, then we can hopefully figure out the next steps. Part of it may be growing pains.”

Alan Andrade, RIAC senior vice president for operations and maintenance, said the state is sensitive to concerns voiced by those who live near the various state airports. “What it boils down to is that we will continue to work with the communities. People should contact us with their concerns,” he said.

However, he added that air space is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration, not the state. “As long as pilots keep to their standards, there is not much we can do.”

Return to top