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Community Noise Concerns & Issues, City of Longmont, Vance Brand Airport

 

Will filing a noise complaint change how the Airport operates?

What effort is the City of Longmont taking to reduce noise impacts on the community?

Can the City of Longmont impose aircraft restrictions or ban nighttime aircraft operations for the purpose of reducing aircraft noise?

Other airports restrict aircraft operations to control noise, including several Colorado airports, so why is the City of Longmont prohibited from doing the same?

Why can’t the airport be moved to Interstate 25 or east of Interstate 25?

What authority does the FAA have over the Vance Brand Municipal Airport?

Does the City of Longmont have any responsibility for the Vance Brand Municipal Airport?

Is there Federal assistance available to help mitigate aircraft noise?

How busy is the airport? How is the level of activity at the airport measured?

What are the Airport's hours of operation?

When do most airplanes depart or arrive at Longmont?

Why are training flights that originate at other airports using the Vance Brand Municipal Airport?

Why do so many airplanes take off and land in the same direction?

What areas experience the greatest amount of aircraft over flights?

Why is there airplane traffic during the middle of the night?

Is there a legal minimum altitude that airplanes can fly over residential areas?

What can the City of Longmont do to keep airplanes from flying over my neighborhood?

Who do I call to complain about airplane noise?

What happens when I file a noise complaint on the Noise Complaint Hotline or the online Noise Complaint?

How do I report an aircraft that is flying too low or in an unsafe manner?

Does the City of Longmont receive Federal funds for the operation of the Vance Brand Municipal Airport?

 

Will filing a noise complaint change how the Airport operates?

The City of Longmont uses noise complaints to monitor activities at the Airport and analyze trends that may be adversely affecting the local community.  Noise complaints help the City track and understand Airport activities that impact the community, particularly during times when the Airport is unattended. 

Noise complaints are compiled to determine if any trends are developing and to enhance pilot education programs.  All complaints are logged and reported regularly to the Longmont Airport Advisory Board and the Longmont City Council.  Further, if an aircraft operator is behaving in an unsafe manner, this information can be provided to the FAA for further investigation. 

If complaints reveal a trend related to a specific aircraft or business based at the Airport, the City will try to work with the airport tenant to develop a voluntary resolution, such as changing the time they operate or flying certain routes at night.  Often aircraft operators are unaware their actions are adversely impacting the local community and they will do what they can to cooperate, so long as such actions do not adversely affect safety or their business.  As such, pilot education is a major part of our noise abatement program and the noise complaints assist the city in this effort.  This includes regular meetings with airport tenants, informational mailings and individual contact with pilots.

The City occasionally receives requests to adopt policies to limit aircraft operations, penalize pilots or close the Airport at certain times.  Federal laws prohibit the City from taking such actions; however, the City will continue to work with airport tenants to ensure the Airport is a good neighbor. 

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What effort is the City of Longmont taking to reduce noise impacts on the community?

Federal law preempts the legal authority of the City relating to aircraft over flights.  To the extent that complaints about aircraft noise relate to flights leaving from or coming to the Airport, the City does not have any legal authority to control the flight paths of such aircraft, or the timing of their passage above the City. Nor does the City have the authority to deny access to any type or class of aircraft operating at the airport.

In addition, federal requirements often conflict with local desires for noise mitigation efforts and noise concerns at the Vance Brand Municipal Airport is no exception. The desire of the City to manage the operation of its Airport may conflict with the federal requirements dictating open and nondiscriminatory access.  The federal requirements are a condition of federal funding that the City has received to fund improvements to the Airport.  The City has considered the benefits and disadvantages of accepting Federal funds and has opted to relinquish some control over its Airport in order to ensure the facility remains safe for public use and is an asset to the community.

The City strives to be a responsible airport operator.  To that extent, the City has developed the Voluntary Noise Abatement Procedures (VNAP) in an effort to be responsive to the concerns of our neighbors and to continue to provide an excellent facility for pilot use. VNAP are designed to minimize the exposure of residential and other noise sensitive areas to aircraft noise, while ensuring the safety of flight operations.

Pilots are asked to follow the voluntary noise abatement procedures and “fly friendly” in an effort to be good neighbors to the citizens who live under the aircraft flight paths.  Depending on the aircraft, these procedures may involve the pilot using a faster rate of climb in order to get the aircraft to higher altitudes as fast as possible or using designated practice areas to avoid residential areas.

For more information on the city’s VNAP, please visit our web page at:

http://www.ci.longmont.co.us/airport/pilot_info/noise_abatement_procedures.htm.

Since the City does not have the authority to regulate pilots or their aircraft, this program will remain voluntary.  Further, Federal grant assurances prohibit the city from imposing restrictions or limitation on aircraft operations.  In accepting Federal airport improvement funds, the City has agreed to keep the airport open to all aircraft users. 

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Can the City of Longmont impose aircraft restrictions or ban nighttime aircraft operations for the purpose of reducing aircraft noise?

The City of Longmont is prohibited by Federal law from imposing limitations on aircraft operations for the purposes of controlling noise without FAA approval. 

Per the Airport Noise and Capacity Act (ANCA) of 1990, an airport sponsor that wants to impose mandatory restrictions on Stage 2 and Stage 3 aircraft must address the applicable requirements of 14 CFR Part 161, Notice and Approval of Airport Noise and Access Restrictions.  Typically, this requires the airport sponsor to demonstrate that proposed restrictions do not create an undue burden on interstate or foreign commerce, including any unjust discrimination.  [Stage 2 aircraft are older jets used by charter and corporate users and Stage 3 aircraft are more modern jets used by large air carriers.]   To read more about ANCA and airport noise, go to the following web sites:

http://www.faa.gov/airports/environmental/airport_noise/

http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/49/subtitle-VII/part-B/chapter-475/subchapter-II

Even if the provisions of ANCA are not applicable, an airport sponsor still must obtain FAA’s approval to impose aircraft restrictions, per Federal grant assurances.  Acceptance of Federal funds obligates an airport sponsor to make the airport available to all aircraft operators.  An airport sponsor may request the FAA, per the requirements of 14 CFR Part 150 and Part 161, to allow it to implement certain restrictions on aircraft operations, but FAA will not approve a noise restriction that may violate the airport sponsor's grant assurances, including the assurance requiring access to the airport on reasonable terms and without unjust discrimination. 

Since 1982, The City has accepted over $4.7million in Federal funds under the current airport development program, the Airport Improvement Program (AIP).  In accepting these funds, the City has agreed to specific Federal obligations, including a commitment to keep the Airport open and make it available for public use as an airport.  Under Federal law, this obligation runs in perpetuity since the City acquired land with Federal funds. 

For more information on Federal grant assurances, go to the FAA’s web page at http://www.faa.gov/airports/airport_compliance/overview/.  In addition, you can call the FAA’s Denver Airport District Office at (303) 342-1354 for information specific to the Vance Brand Municipal Airport.  This office issues AIP grants to the City of Longmont and works with Airport staff to ensure Airport planning and operations remain compliant with FAA standards and grant assurances.

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Other airports restrict aircraft operations to control noise, including several Colorado airports, so why is the City of Longmont prohibited from doing the same?

Restrictions on aircraft operation that were in place prior to October 1, 1990 were grandfathered under ANCA.  As such, there are airports throughout the nation that have aircraft restrictions or nighttime curfews for noise purposes. These grandfathered restrictions vary and require FAA's approval if the airport sponsor wants to revise them. 

 

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Why can’t the airport be moved to Interstate 25 or east of Interstate 25?

The City of Longmont considers the Vance Brand Municipal Airport to be a community asset and has included the airport in the Longmont Area Comprehensive Plan Strategies and Goals. This plan supports maintaining the airport in its current location, particularly since there is so much public investment in the existing facility.

 

The Airport was built in 1942 at its present location.  For more than seventy years, the airport has received federal, State and City funds to maintain the airport in good operating condition and make improvements. This includes local investment in supporting infrastructure, such as streets and utilities, and private investment in businesses that operate at the airport.

Also, moving the Airport involves more than simply constructing a new runway in a new location.  There would be a tremendous cost involved in rebuilding the supporting infrastructure.  This would include roads, utilities, aircraft fueling and maintenance facilities, emergency services, navigational aids, aircraft hangars and pilot training and pre-flight preparation areas.  In addition, the City has contractual obligations with its airport tenants that may or may not allow the City to relocate the airport.

Similarly, obligations resulting from the acceptance of federal airport improvement funds require the City to obtain permission from the FAA to move the airport.  To protect Federal investment in the airport, the FAA would require the City of Longmont to build a replacement airport that is equivalent to the existing facility.  Since there is neither an operational need nor safety reason to build a replacement airport, it is unlikely the FAA will provide any funding for such an endeavor.  Rather, the City would incur the cost to build a replacement airport, which would likely be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

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What authority does the FAA have over the Vance Brand Municipal Airport?

The City and the FAA both have responsibilities to their respective operational roles of the Airport.  Both governmental entities work together in the form of a partnership to address all concerns at the Airport. In addition to community noise issues, the City and FAA work together on airport planning and development, airport financing, airport safety, environmental issues and a host of other day-to-day operational matters.  Most importantly, the FAA provides grants to the City for airfield development, safety equipment and airport planning projects. Air travel and air transportation have long been recognized as directly and inherently part of interstate commerce, and therefore subject to control by the federal government.  This responsibility rests primarily on the FAA.  While the FAA’s responsibilities are large, diverse and encompass a broad range of topics, the agency’s primary responsibility is SAFETY!  

The FAA administers the nation’s airspace, Air Traffic Control System, certification of aircraft and pilots, and regulatory oversight of certain airports designated important to the US national aviation system in the National Plan of Integrated Airports (NPIAS).  The Vance Brand Municipal Airport is included in the NPIAS and is an integral part of nation’s system of airports. Accordingly, the FAA makes decisions regarding the Airport based on not only local needs but on state and national needs as well.

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Does the City of Longmont have any responsibility for the Vance Brand Municipal Airport?

The City is responsible for maintaining a safe and efficient airport to meet the City’s air transportation needs for commerce and recreation in order to attract and foster economic development. The City operates the Airport as a community asset and improves the facilities to increase its use and revenues.

The City also is responsible for controlling land uses around the Airport and does so through coordinated land use and airport planning, zoning to prohibit residential and the congregation of people near the airport and pursues aviation easements, plat notes, disclosure notices, or other appropriate methods to manage land uses in the Airport environs. To the extent possible, the City also examines and revises, as appropriate, land development and building code regulations to mitigate airport-related noise impacts on development in the airport environs.

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Is there Federal assistance available to help mitigate aircraft noise?

Under certain circumstances, Federal law does allow the FAA to fund noise mitigation measures, such as installing windows and insulation to lower interior sound levels or purchasing homes.  However, these measures are limited by Federal law to areas that are subject to 65 DNL noise levels or greater.  In addition, the airport sponsor must develop noise contour maps and noise compatibility plan, per the requirements of 14 CFR Part 150.  If the FAA approves noise mitigation measures proposed in the noise compatibility plan, the cost to implement such measures may be eligible for AIP funds.

Federal aircraft noise laws were developed with large, commercial airports in mind and airports the size of Vance Brand rarely meet the minimum requirements for mitigating noise.  At airports serving only small aircraft (commonly referred to as General Aviation (GA) aircraft), 65 DNL and greater noise levels typically are contained on airport property and often do not extend any further then the runway.

The City recently completed an Airport Master Plan, which included noise analysis based on the FAA-approved Integrated Noise Modeling System. The results of the model indicate the 65 DNL contour for the Vance Brand Municipal Airport does not extend beyond the airport property.

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How busy is the airport? How is the level of activity at the airport measured?

Activity levels at airports are measured by aircraft operations. An operation is defined by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as a takeoff or a landing. So, a "touch and go" conducted by a training aircraft counts as two operations. In 2011, Longmont Airport accommodated approximately 70,000 aircraft operations. Most of the traffic is concentrated during daytime hours. By comparison, in 2000, the Airport accommodated approximately 100,000 aircraft operations, so there has been a decrease in the number of aircraft operations over the past 10 years

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What are the Airport's hours of operation?

The Airport is open for business 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in most weather conditions.

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When do most airplanes depart or arrive at Longmont?

The airport has a peak hour just like highways do. Our heaviest traffic volumes occur between 7 a.m. and 10a.m., and again between 3p.m. and 6 p.m. Weekends are the highest volume days with Monday and Tuesday being the slowest days. Weekends are busier as most traffic on these days is flight training traffic.  Some of this training traffic is aircraft based at Longmont, but most is training traffic that originates at the Rocky Mountain Metro and Boulder Airports.

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Why are training flights that originate at other airports using the Vance Brand Municipal Airport?

The Vance Brand Municipal Airports is a publically funded, public-use airport that is open to all aircraft operators.  Available runway length/strength and navigation aids may limit some aircraft from using the airport, but otherwise the airport is open to the public, including student pilots.

The FAA requires student pilots to practice navigating to other airports.  Such flights are known as cross-country flights.  Also, FAA requires pilots to maintain currency by flying so many hours in a year, which pilots often accomplish by making cross-county flights to neighboring airports.  

Training flights that originate at the Vance Brand Municipal Airport tend to make cross-county flights to either the Fort Collins/Loveland or Greely Airports.  Locally based pilots are encouraged to practice flight maneuvers north of the City, away from residential areas.

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Why do so many airplanes take off and land in the same direction?

Airplanes must take-off and land into the wind. The primary wind direction at Longmont is from the west to the east and the runway is oriented accordingly. About 70 percent of the traffic at Longmont takes off to the west, and the remainder takes off to the east.

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What areas experience the greatest amount of aircraft over flights?

The areas immediately west and north of the airport experience very high volumes of aircraft traffic. Almost 70 percent of Longmont’s traffic departs to the west due to the prevailing winds.

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Why is there airplane traffic during the middle of the night?

The Airport is open 24 hours a day. The City of Longmont has accepted Federal funds to make improvements to the airport, including taxiway and runway lighting.  Under Federal law, airport sponsors generally are prohibited by Federal law from implementing nighttime curfews or prohibiting a certain airport user, such as cargo operators, if the sponsor has accepted Federal support to maintain the airport as a public use airport. 

Nighttime aircraft activity is mostly aircraft charter, cargo and check deliveries for banking institutions in mountain communities. In addition, the Federal Aviation Administration requires nighttime training for certain pilot and skydiving license/ratings.

A portion of our overnight flights are also air-ambulance flights transporting patients, blood, or organs to points throughout the State and country. The largest air-ambulance companies in Denver operate at airports throughout the Denver/ North Metro area. In addition, law enforcement and news media regularly use the Airport at night.

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Is there a legal minimum altitude that airplanes can fly over residential areas?

Federal regulations specify a minimum altitude of 1,000 feet over congested areas and 500 feet over non-congested areas (see Title 14, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 91, General Operating and Flight Rules). The exceptions to this rule are helicopter operations and aircraft that are in the process of taking off or landing.

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What can the City of Longmont do to keep airplanes from flying over my neighborhood?

While the City of Longmont owns and operates the Vance Brand Municipal Airport, the FAA is responsible for airspace and the control of aircraft in flight.  Since there is no air traffic control tower at the airport, aircraft arrive and depart the airport by following standard traffic patterns and flight procedures established by FAA.  Due to the close proximity of the Denver International Airport, once aircraft reach a certain altitude and distance from the airport, pilots are required to contact FAA’s Denver Terminal Radar Approach Control Center for altitude and heading assignments.  At this point, FAA will vector aircraft in a manner that maintains separation from other aircraft and obstructions.  While certain routes are commonly used, FAA will use whatever airspace is necessary to ensure safety.

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Who do I call to complain about airplane noise?

Airport Manager, Tim Barth, is responsible for taking noise complaints at the Vance Brand Municipal Airport. You can reach him by calling the office at (303) 651-8431. Alternately, you can call our noise complaint hotline at (303) 651-8431 and choose Option #2. When using the hotline, if you would like a return call, be sure to leave your name and telephone number on the recording and your call will be returned as soon as possible.  You also can submit a noise complaint on line at the following address:

http://www.ci.longmont.co.us/airport/news/airport_contact_information.htm  

 

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What happens when I file a noise complaint on the Noise Complaint Hotline or the online Noise Complaint?

The City of Longmont takes noise complaints seriously and will investigate non-routine complaint received.  We spend considerable time and effort on a weekly basis in handling and analyzing complaints.  In some instances, we may discover the complaint is associated with a one-time event, such an emergency medical flight.  In other instances, complaints can be correlated to a specific aircraft based at the Airport. When this occurs, the Airport Manager typically talks with the aircraft operator and sends a letter reminding them of noise abatement procedures.

We will only accept one complaint per incident, per individual. Making multiple complaints regarding the same incident does not change how the compliant is processed or investigated.  Each complaint should include your name, address and the date and time of the over flight. If you would like a call-back, please include telephone number and a request for a call-back.

We understand that airport noise can be frustrating but please be respectful of our staff when making a noise complaint.  Obscene language and threats will result in the complaint not being accepted.  In addition, we are required to report any threats to pilots and aircraft to Federal authorities.

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How do I report an aircraft that is flying too low or in an unsafe manner?

If the complaint involves aircraft flying in a hazardous manner, the city will recommend the complainant call the FAA’s Denver Flight Standards District Office at (303) 342-1170.  This Federal office is responsible for licensing pilots, certifying aircraft and enforcing flight rules.  Be mindful that as pilots approach and depart an airport, they will be flying at lower altitudes and most likely the pilot is operating in accordance with Federal aviation regulations.

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Does the City of Longmont receive Federal funds for the operation of the Vance Brand Municipal Airport?

Under the current federal airport funding program, the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), the City of Longmont has accepted over $4.7 million in AIP funds since 1982. The current AIP authorization allocates $150,000 of entitlement funds annually to the Vance Brand Municipal Airport.  The City also is eligible to receive discretionary funds for certain airfield safety projects, based availability of funds and the needs of other airports in the national airport system.

The AIP is funded from the Aviation and Airway Trust Fund, which is funded primarily from ticket tax of air carrier passengers and aviation fuel taxes.  This is a user-funded program that ensures safety and capacity projects at nearly 3,400 US airports are funded when state and local funds are unavailable. In essence, the local, state and national aviation system is predominately financed by user fees.

FAA issues AIP funds as reimbursable grants.  An airport sponsor is responsible for contributing local matching funds for an AIP project. At airports served by general aviation aircraft, such as the Vance Brand Municipal Airport, the local math is 5% of eligible costs.  For AIP grants at the Vance Brand Municipal Airport, this 5% is paid by the Colorado Department of Transportation and by revenue generated at the airport.  No general fund money from the City is used to operate or maintain the airport.

For more information on the AIP, please go to FAA’s web page at: http://www.faa.gov/airports/aip/overview/

 


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