Planes will shift, so may airport noise |

Planes will shift, so may airport noise

Tamara Miller
Preston Utley/Vail DailyA commercial airplane lands at the Eagle County Airport in Gypsum.

EAGLE – Change is in the air at the Eagle County Airport and that could mean a little less noise on the ground. A new landing system being installed at the airport will allow incoming planes to fly a little higher and little farther north than current flight paths. While the county’s airport consultant isn’t making any promises, Eagle residents like Debra Earl may notice the airplanes less. “I’ve gotten used to having planes fly over my house,” said Earl, who lives near downtown Eagle. “That would be nice if they flew over the highway instead, though.”Planes will still have to fly over Eagle to get to the airport, said Bill Payne, an airport consultant. It’s just that in the future they might fly over I-70 instead of over the main part of Eagle”It’s not like we are putting it over Aspen, up over Kremmling,” Payne said. “There’s only one way to get in there, though we are trying to keep it as far away from people’s houses as we can.”Besides, moving the airplanes a little farther north won’t necessarily take the noise away, anyway, he said. The sound ricochets off mountainsides and funnels into the valley.

“It’s like being over the top of a bowl and talking into a bowl,” Payne said. “The sound is going to bounce all around.”There are other factors that can make overhead airplane engines sound loud to people on the ground. The right weather, humidity and time of day can amplify or dampen noise in the valley, he said. The airplane approaches are being changed because the airport is getting what’s called an instrument landing system. The system gives pilots a better sense of how far away they are from the landing strip and how much clearance they have between their plane and the mountain peaks, Payne said. Flying into the county’s airport is challenging for many pilots because of the mountainous terrain, he said.”The first time you fly in there you are up and paying attention,” Payne said. “You carry a little more power, you pay attention. As you get more and more comfortable, you find out how safe it is.”Carrying more power is good for safety because the pilot will be able to steer the plane better. But it makes for louder landings, he said. Safety is paramount, and the new system will make flying into the airport even safer, Payne added.

It also will eliminate a few of the approach options, including one that forces pilots to circle around the airport before landing. That type of approach is “not good”, Payne said. It’s difficult for pilots to circle around the airport in the tight confines of a narrow mountain valley, for one. “Number two, it’s louder than hell,” Payne said. While some Eagle residents complain about airplane noise, Darlene Martinez said it doesn’t bother her much. “I enjoy watching the planes go over,” said Martinez, who lives in the Eagle Villas apartment complex just off U.S. Highway 6. The new flight approaches may change her mind, though, because it will bring planes more directly over her house.”Who knows?” Martinez said “Maybe I can start complaining, too.”The noise was more bothersome when the airport’s summer program was busier, Earl said. Summer air service dropped off until local merchants and the county started a new marketing program three summers ago.

As the airport grows and more planes fly in, the noise could get worse, she said. The new landing system is being installed this week. The airport must publish the new airplane approaches so pilots can review them. The new approaches won’t be used until early fall, Payne said. “There’s a possibility you’ll see some changes, and hopefully it will be an improvement for everyone,” he added. “We’ve got so many people in the valley anymore you have to fly over somebody.”Staff Writer Tamara Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607, or, Colorado

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