March 17, 2022

Chairs DeFazio, Larsen Statements from Hearing on Mitigating Aviation Noise


Washington, D.C. — The following are opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, from Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Chair of the Subcommittee on Aviation Rick Larsen (D-WA) during today’s hearing titled, “Aviation Noise: Measuring Progress in Addressing Community Concerns.” 

Videos of DeFazio and Larsen’s opening statements are here and here

More information on the hearing can be found here.

Chair DeFazio:
Thank you, Chair Larsen, for calling this important hearing today focused on aviation noise.  I would also like to thank the FAA, GAO, and the many aviation stakeholders appearing before us today. 

As air travel has become cheaper and more accessible than ever before, the demand for air travel has dramatically increased. According to the International Civil Aviation Organization, the number of annual worldwide air passengers grew from 1.46 billion in 1998 to 4.5 billion in 2019. And as the aviation industry recovers from the pandemic, that number is expected to grow to nearly 10 billion scheduled passengers by 2040, with the number of departures expected to reach nearly 90 million.

This rising demand for air travel has created an urgent need to invest in the infrastructure necessary to accommodate the rising number of travelers at airports. For instance, last year, Airports Council International estimated a backlog of more than $115 billion in airport infrastructure needs to address the rising demand for air travel. 

Last November, we made incredible strides in addressing this gap with the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which provided $25 billion over five years to modernize and upgrade our nation’s airport infrastructure. And I will continue to support an increase in the passenger facility charge, which hasn’t been raised in over 20 years and is still critical to addressing airport’s long-term infrastructure needs.

However, despite these needed investments, the growth in air travel and airport capacity does not come without a cost. Communities near airports know all too well that growth at an airport often yields increased noise emissions. And these noise emissions can be more than just temporary annoyances. Aircraft noise has the potential to cause sleep disturbances, contribute to hearing issues, and adversely affect a person’s physical and mental health. 

That is why it is imperative we do everything we can to ensure we reduce and mitigate these noise impacts on the communities around airports. This includes continuing to fund critical research and development programs, such as the Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions, and Noise, or CLEEN, Program. The CLEEN program is FAA’s principal environmental effort to speed the development of new aircraft and engine technologies that reduce noise, emissions, and fuel burn. In pursuit of this mission, the program has leveraged over $600 million in public and private investments since its inception in 2010. 

Moreover, we must also ensure that we are developing and deploying new and advanced technologies in a responsible way. For instance, the NextGen program has provided incredible benefits to the aviation industry. From 2010 to the present, NextGen programs have: 

  • Saved operators $1.25 billion in fuel costs;
  • Slashed carbon emissions as a result;
  • Delivered $4.2 billion back into the economy by reducing passengers’ travel time; and
  • Reduced non-fuel operating costs by $1.5 billion.

One of the advances that has allowed NextGen to deliver these benefits is performance-based navigation (PBN). PBN enables aircraft to fly more precise flight paths, thereby decreasing fuel use and carbon emissions and potentially reducing the number of people affected by aircraft noise by flying aircraft over fewer communities. But these more precise routes also could cause more noise emissions for the communities that remain in an aircraft’s flightpath. As the FAA continues to deploy NextGen and other new technologies, it must do a better job of listening to these affected communities if the agency hopes to successfully address their concerns.

Effectively addressing aircraft noise also requires prioritizing funding for critical noise mitigation projects. Typically, these projects are funded through the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program (AIP), which, among other things, provides funding for airports to help soundproof homes, construct noise barriers, acquire land, and fund other types of noise mitigation projects. Unfortunately, AIP funding has remained largely flat since this committee reauthorized the program in 2018 and, consequently, has been oversubscribed and is incapable of meeting the growing demand for noise mitigation in local communities.

Fortunately, the IIJA provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reverse this trend and finally provide airports with the resources they need to effectively alleviate harmful aircraft noise emissions in their communities. For instance, the IIJA provided $15 billion in formula funding to airports for AIP-eligible development projects, including noise mitigation. Airports should ensure a significant amount of this funding goes directly to these projects, thereby protecting the health of their local communities and limiting the adverse effects of growing airport capacity. If we fail to do so, then the tremendous economic and societal benefits that come along with improved airspace efficiency, newer aircraft technologies, and increased airport capacity risk being completely ignored by public. 

I look forward to hearing from the witnesses on this important issue. I yield back.
Chair Larsen:
Good morning and welcome to today’s Aviation Subcommittee hearing titled “Aviation Noise: Measuring Progress in Addressing Community Concerns.”
Before I begin, I would like to wish all my colleagues on the Subcommittee a happy St. Patrick’s Day.
And to my friend Mr. Lynch from Massachusetts, a happy Evacuation Day. 
Now, turning to today’s hearing. At one time or another, all of us on this Subcommittee have heard from constituents concerned about noise from airports and aircraft.
In my district, Paine Field Airport in Snohomish County logged over 2,100 noise related comments in January of this year alone. 
Studies from the Federal Aviation Administration, the NASA Langley Research Center and others have found that noise from airports and aircraft can have negative effects on residents’ physical and mental health. 
These studies also have documented the impact of aviation noise on schools and businesses located near airports. 
This Subcommittee takes aviation noise seriously and is focused on finding meaningful solutions to this persistent issue.
The 2018 FAA Reauthorization law included several provisions aimed at reducing and mitigating aircraft noise.
The law was a victory for community advocates and other key stakeholders working to reduce the adverse impacts of airport and aircraft noise.
As Congress prepares for the next FAA reauthorization bill, this Subcommittee must evaluate how the FAA implemented provisions from the 2018 law and identify ongoing challenges.
For instance, there are questions about whether the metrics used by the FAA to measure the impacts of aviation noise accurately portray the effects of noise on communities.
Who is hurt by aviation noise?
Prior to this hearing, I invited all Members of Congress to submit written statements for the record highlighting priorities and issues of importance to their constituents related to aviation noise. I would like to thank my colleagues who submitted written testimony on this issue and remind them that the record is open until April 1.
The issue of aviation noise is not just an annoyance.
It is a public health issue;
It is an economic issue;
It is an equity issue; and
It is a quality-of-life issue.
A disproportionate number of communities negatively impacted by aviation noise are historically disadvantaged communities.
Since the 1970s, community advocates raised this issue with lawmakers and federal agencies in hopes of protecting public health and noise sensitive locations like schools and churches near where aircraft operate.
This Subcommittee must ensure community advocates and the general public continue to have a voice in the FAA’s ongoing efforts to alleviate aviation noise.
For example, public participation must be included in the development of flight corridors based on Performance Based Navigation (PBN).
PBN is one of many elements of the FAA’s ongoing NextGen process designed to improve the management and efficiency of the National Airspace System (NAS).
By providing more precise flight paths for aircraft, PBN will offer significant economic and environmental benefits as it continues to be implemented, but also may concentrate noise emissions for certain communities.
Congress and the FAA must work with local communities to improve PBN implementation, while continuing the realization of other NextGen capabilities.
Emerging Technologies
Nearly one year ago, this Subcommittee held a hearing on innovation in U.S. airspace and how emerging airspace entrants and new aviation technologies offer potential societal, safety and environmental benefits.
The aviation sector continues to develop new methods for limiting and mitigating aircraft noise.
Technological improvements in engines, alternative propulsion systems and airframes have already led to reductions in aircraft noise. 
The question before us today is what more can Congress and the aviation industry do to foster these technological improvements?
Congress, federal agencies, stakeholders and the industry must lay the groundwork to meet the challenges communities will face 10, 20 and 30 years down the road.
We have already seen the effects drones and other small unpiloted vehicles can have on communities.
The next emerging technology is advanced air mobility (AAM) aircraft or “flying taxis”; which the AAM industry plans to introduce into the NAS soon.
While I am encouraged by the prospects of these technologies, I am also interested to hear how the FAA and manufacturers are looking at potential noise impacts for communities where these AAM aircraft will fly.
Working with my colleagues Subcommittee Ranking Member Garret Graves and Reps. Titus and Balderson, along with others, I recently introduced legislation (H.R.6270) to create a pilot program to help communities plan for AAM deployment into the NAS.
Part of that planning process may include a description of efforts to reduce the adverse effects of aviation noise related to these aircraft.
Congress must be forward-looking in dealing with the problems of today and also preparing for the problems of 2050.
Today we have two witness panels to further discuss aviation noise issues.
The first panel includes government representatives from the FAA’s Office of Environment and Energy, the Office of Airports and the Air Traffic Organization. 
The Government Accountability Office is also here to discuss their reports on the FAA’s progress to limit and mitigate aircraft noise.
Today’s second panel includes representatives from airlines, airports, manufacturers and a community-based association concerned with this issue and working to find solutions.
I look forward to hearing from today’s witnesses on the progress made since enactment of the 2018 FAA reauthorization law and what steps Congress needs to take in the 2023 reauthorization bill to build on that progress.
While the 2018 FAA reauthorization law included multiple provisions to help alleviate aviation noise, there are still ways to improve implementation of these provisions and address our constituents’ valid concerns.
Thank you and I look forward to this discussion to tackle these issues in a collaborative manner.