Sanford city commissioners are beginning to take a more aggressive stance to late night noise coming from the Orlando Sanford International Airport (OSIA).
At Monday’s city commission work session commissioners agreed to send a formal letter directing the Sanford Airport Authority to begin addressing the noise issue immediately.
“They’ve pushed this off for a long time,” said Mayor Jeff Trplett. “Let’s put it on their plate to figure out how they need to do it, because they need to do it now.”
The late-night noise comes from aircraft engines being revved up as part of a procedure called an “engine run-up.” These tests are required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) after certain types of maintenance procedures are performed on an aircraft.
Every aircraft is on a stringent maintenance schedule based on its hours in operation. As part of regularly scheduled maintenance, the FAA requires aircraft engines be tested at high power levels to ensure proper operation. These tests typically occur at night when the aircraft are through flying for the day.
Allegiant Airlines has a sizable maintenance operation at Sanford’s airport, and to date, the airport has not tracked when those tests have occurred.
“The airport is informed when the tests will happen, but the they have not tracked that information,” District 1 Sanford City Commissioner Art Woodruff told his fellow commissioners.
Starting in March the airport officials will begin logging each engine run-up to see, “when exactly are they happening and is that the best time for it to happen,” Woodruff said.
Airport leaders have indicated the airport is exploring the possibility of building a Ground Run-up Enclosure (GRE), also known as a “hush house.” Basically it’s a building with soundproofing features that is large enough to house an entire commercial aircraft.
Triplett suggested a letter from the city commission should note that the airport authority logged a $2 million surplus in it’s last fiscal year. The airport would prefer to get a grant for the hush house project, which could cost as much as $10 million.
“Now is the time to put $2 million aside to build this “hush house” because our residents are complaining of hours of this noise in the middle of the night,” Triplett said.
Airport officials typically push back when local governments suggest intervening on airport operations.
“The response we always get is: ‘The FAA won’t allow that,’ ” Woodruff said. “However, the FAA will in fact let the local government set some restrictions (when it comes to late-night noise).”
Furthermore, while the Sanford Airport Authority is a separately chartered entity that answers primarily to the FAA for airport operations, the airport is city property and airport authority is ultimately an extension of the city commission which must have its budget approved by the commission. In addition, airport board members are appointed by the commission.
Should the airport authority ignore the city commission’s directive on noise issues, the commission could reject the airporpt’s budget, as well as replace board members.
“I don’t want to beat up on Allegiant,” said Woodruff. “We need to keep them, but there may be an avenue we can actually impose some (noise) restrictions.”