Noise Management Information

Santa Monica Airport has a long history of working to address noise concerns of residents living near the airport. The goal of the airport’s Noise Management Program is to minimize aircraft noise exposure at the airport by educating pilots and neighbors on the programs we have in place to achieve that goal.

This section of our web site explains basic noise concepts and noise programs at the airport. It also allows residents to research flight operations that may have disturbed them, and provides the opportunity to contact the Noise Operations Office with inquiries or complaints. 

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Noise 101 - How is aircraft noise described, quantified, and managed?

Aircraft Noise Metrics

  • What is Noise?
    • Noise is unwanted sound; what is music to one may be noise to another
    • By its very nature noise is subjective
    • Noise cannot be measured, only sound can be measured
  • Sound pressure ranges are very large, therefore expressed on a logarithmic scale
  • Logarithmic scale compresses the wide range of sound pressures to a more useable range
  • Standard unit of measurement is the decibel (dB), which is the basis for aircraft noise analysis

Sound Environs

noise-environs-graph

Propagation of Noise

  • Sound levels decrease primarily as a function of:
    • Distance from Source
    • Atmospheric absorption
    • Ground attenuation
  • Overall, atmospheric conditions play a significant role in affecting the sound levels on a daily basis and how these sounds are perceived by the public
  • The atmosphere can absorb sound depending on the temperature of the air and humidity levels
    • Less sound will be absorbed by the atmosphere on days with high humidity and high temperatures
    • Temperature inversions (or cloud cover) can cause the sound to reflect back to the ground
  • Ground absorption is important to the study of noise from airfield operations
    • Closer the source of the noise is to the ground, the more the sound will be attenuated by the ground
    • Soft surfaces, such as vegetation, absorb more sound than hard surfaces like water or concrete

Quantifying Noise Exposure

  • Noise exposure can be quantified using measurements or modeling
  • Measuring sound levels will tell us:
    • The sound levels at a specific location for the time period measurements were made
    • Historical record of the sound levels at a specific location
    • Historical trends; but measurements do not predict future noise levels
  • Modeling sound exposure tells us the sound levels
    • Over broad geographic areas as well as at specific locations for a specific time period
    • Modeling can produce a historical record
    • Modeling can be predictive by showing expected trend

Managing Aircraft Noise

  • Extent of available Noise Management programs varies based on the extent and complexity of the noise concerns at the airport
  • Programs should be safe, cost effective, and capable of being implemented to be successful
  • Examples include:
    • Departure curfews
    • Modify approach and departure procedures
    • Limit operations, such as touch-and-go operations
    • Designated traffic patterns
    • Fly Neighborly programs

Regulatory Framework

  • Federal law sets aircraft noise standards, prescribes operating rules, establishes the compatibility planning process, and impedes the airport proprietor from implementing operational restrictions
  • State law sets forth compatibility planning guidelines and noise standards but exempts aircraft in flight
  • Local noise ordinances set noise standards.


Federal Law Preempts State and Local Regulations Pursuant to Aircraft in Flight