2017 Year-End HighlightsPosted on January 5, 2018
The Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) continues to work toward solutions and track trends that help reduce aircraft noise for residents around Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP). While aircraft noise continues to be a concern for neighbors, below are some highlights to share from 2017.
The airlines at MSP continue to operate with efficiency at top of mind as the passenger growth rate escalated faster than aircraft operations. During 2017, passenger enplanements grew about 1.3 percent over last year with under one percent growth in total flights. Fewer flight movements come from greater seat capacity or load factor per flight and help reduce noise and other environmental impacts for our neighbors.
New Aircraft Making Less Noise
The advancement of aircraft engine and airframe technology, coupled with federal grant programs such as the FAA’s Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions, and Noise (CLEEN) Program and NASA’s Environmentally Responsible Aviation (ERA) have helped to bring new aircraft to MSP with significantly lower noise levels than just a decade ago. The chart below shows the aircraft using MSP throughout 2017 and their certificated noise levels in relation to the federal stage requirements.
Recently, Delta Air Lines and Airbus struck a deal on an order of 100 Airbus A321NEO aircraft beginning in 2020. According to Airbus, the “new engine option” is 50 percent quieter than its predecessor. Additionally, Delta has an order of 75 CS-100 aircraft from Bombardier, scheduled to begin deliveries in 2018. Being the largest airline at MSP, this is welcome news to both neighbors and passengers alike.
Other MSP airlines have also made changes to their MSP fleet. Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines began operating the Airbus A320NEO at MSP at the end of 2016. The Boeing version of this popular single-aisle aircraft is the B737-MAX8. Southwest Airlines began operating this aircraft at MSP in late 2017. Boeing has designed the aircraft to be 40 percent quieter than today’s next-generation 737. With 200 more on order by the airline, it is expected to continue a positive change in the MSP fleet makeup.
In 2017, these new Airbus and Boeing aircraft flew in and out of MSP 900 times.
Residential Sound Insulation
This year the MAC worked in neighborhoods near MSP to provide sound insulation for the first time since 2012. The continuation of this $500 million effort is one of the most unique and aggressive residential mitigation programs in the country. The FAA specifies that only residences impacted by cumulative aircraft noise exposure level of 65 dB DNL (day-night average sound level) or greater and with an interior noise level of 45 dB DNL or greater are considered incompatible with an airport and thus eligible for sound insulation programs using aviation-generated funding. Instead of the federal standard, the program around MSP is dictated by a legal agreement, known as the Consent Decree, between the cities of Minneapolis, Eagan, Richfield, and the MAC and approved by the FAA. This agreement provides mitigation eligibility 5 dB DNL beyond the federal standard out to the 60 dB DNL contour and does not set a specific interior noise threshold.
In 2017 the MAC provided mitigation to 79 homes at a cost of $1.51 million dollars and introduced an additional 48 homes to the first phase of construction. To-date the program has provided mitigation to over 15,000 homes, nearly 3,300 multi-family units, and 19 schools. In 2018, an additional 286 single-family homes are scheduled to receive upgrades through this program. The MAC is committed to continue providing mitigation activities at this level until 2024 based on actual annual noise contours published each March.
Noise Abatement Procedures
Noise abatement procedures at MSP provide an operational opportunity to reduce aircraft noise. With 11 noise abatement procedures, the MAC works closely with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic management to track compliance with these procedures. In 2017, over 94 percent of the carrier jet departures over Eagan and Mendota Heights (off Runways 12L and 12R) remained within the commercial/industrial corridor. Additionally, the Minnesota River Valley Departure Procedure to the south (off Runway 17) had 99.7 percent compliance with only 180 flights turning westbound prior to the procedure turn point. That’s the lowest number since 2012.
A system of runway use priorities offers additional noise reduction by selecting preferential runways that align to less densely populated areas. When wind and traffic demand does not dictate a certain airport configuration, the FAA is more likely to use these runways for noise abatement. Overnight use of the highest priority runways (Runways 12L and 12R for departures and 30L and 30R for arrivals) during 2017 was the highest it has been since 2014. In addition, the FAA maximized the use of mixed runway configurations in 2017, making the most out of the Runway Use System. In 2017, 10.5 percent of the time was spent in mixed configurations, up from 10.2 percent last year and the highest it has been since 2007.