Proposed flight path changes at Fort Lauderdale’s airport could clear the skies over many neighborhoods currently bombarded with noise from overhead planes.
The Federal Aviation Administration is overhauling the flight paths at major airports in South and Central Florida, hoping to reduce flight times, save fuel and optimize routes as it shifts from a system based on ground radar to a more advanced one using satellite-based technology.
The new routes at the busy Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport are expected to remain similar to those already in place for arriving and departing flights. However, the new technology will make the routes more precise, concentrating the flights into much narrower pathways.
The FAA held public workshops this week for residents to see the potential impact of the changes, which could take effect in two years.
Among those likely to benefit are people living in neighborhoods south and southeast of downtown Fort Lauderdale.
“I think it looks better than it is today,” said Bill Cole, who lives in the city’s Harbour Inlet neighborhood near the 17th Street Causeway. He was attending an FAA workshop at the Anne Kolb Nature Center in Hollywood.
Cole says he currently sees many planes flying over his home that are heading west before turning east to land at the airport. The new directions would send the planes further north — away from his home — before having them head west.
That might not be good news in places such as Wilton Manors or communities next to it. The changes would have more arriving planes heading west in a corridor generally between Oakland Park and Sunrise boulevards. FAA officials said while the number of planes flying over the area should increase, adding to resident discomfort, they should be at a higher altitude than currently, decreasing noise volumes.
Bob Magill of Lauderdale Harbours near the 17th Street Causeway said the noise in his neighborhood from planes taking off to the east should also be reduced, as they head out further over the ocean before making a turn. Those flights haven’t been going directly overhead, but the neighborhood gets a blast of noise from the jet engines as the planes turn to head north, he said.
Magill said the hardest thing to deal with is late night or early morning flights, which the project doesn’t address.
“It only takes one airplane to wake you up,” Magill said.
The FAA plans have faced legal challenges in other communities, such as Baltimore, where flight path alterations have created noise problems in neighborhoods that didn’t have airplanes flying overhead in the past. Similar airway projects have been completed in places including Los Angeles, Charlotte, Atlanta and Houston. Florida’s was the only one involving four major airports: Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Orlando and Tampa.
Some residents who don’t experience much airplane noise came out to the workshops to see if the new paths would bring unwelcome changes for them.
Christine Field, who lives in Hollywood south of the airport, said she was relieved to learn the changes shouldn’t affect her home. She did feel for other communities, such as Lauderdale Isles on the north side of Interstate 595, northwest of the airport, which could see a greater concentration of flights.
”I really pity the people that live just north of the airport and to the west. They’re really going to get hit,” Field said.
Some Hollywood residents who have been experiencing noisy planes found out flights from the Fort Lauderdale airport might not be to blame. Instead, the planes could be going to and from the Opa-locka airport to the west, where Amazon has opened an 885,000-square-foot fulfillment center.
Laurent and Patricia Aimard came to the workshop because they said they have noticed an increase in air traffic over their home during the past year.
“We didn’t want this project to direct bigger aircraft from Miami or Fort Lauderdale over our neighborhood,” Laurent Aimard said. “We understand now the aircraft [we’re hearing] are coming to and from the Opa-locka airport.”
The FAA will conduct additional workshops next year once it completes environmental studies about the proposed paths. Those workshops will include computer-generated noise simulations where residents will be able to experience projected noise levels over their individual homes.
“We’re not far enough along in the analysis that says what the noise impacts will be,” said Jim Arrighi, who is overseeing the project nationwide for the FAA.
lbarszewski@SunSentinel.com, 954-356-4556 or Twitter @lbarszewski