Noise re­ports filed with a sim­ple click

Air­plane com­plaints sent by handy de­vice

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

Bar­bara Deck­ert has a new weapon in the war against air­plane noise — and she’s not afraid to use it.

Ev­ery time a plane flies over her sub­ur­ban Mary­land home, rat­tling her win­dows and set­ting her teeth on edge, she presses a small white but­ton and feels a tiny sense of tri­umph.

That’s be­cause with one click, Deck­ert has done what could have taken her hours to do a few months ago — she’s filed a noise com­plaint with of­fi­cials at the Mary­land Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Thanks to the in­ge­nu­ity of a soft­ware en­gi­neer from South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, Deck­ert and hun­dreds of oth­ers with sim­i­lar beefs now have an easy way to reg­is­ter their an­noy­ance with the jets that fly over their homes, the Airnoise but­ton.

“It’s a fab­u­lous tool,” Deck­ert said. “Click­ing that but­ton is re­ally psy­cho­log­i­cally sat­is­fy­ing.”

Of­fi­cials at air­ports from Seat­tle to Bal­ti­more said Airnoise has led to a dra­matic spike in com­plaints. At Bal­ti­more-Washington In­ter­na­tional Thur­good Mar­shall Air­port, of­fi­cials are al­most cer­tain Airnoise is the rea­son com­plaints surged to 17,228 in Au­gust from just 2,692 the pre­vi­ous month. In San Diego, more than 90 per­cent of the com­plaints came through third-party apps like Airnoise.

Airnoise is the brain­child of Cal­i­for­nia res­i­dent Chris McCann, who re­pur­posed the same plas­tic Dash But­ton that Ama­zon cus­tomers use to or­der toi­let pa­per and de­ter­gent.

(Ama­zon founder Jeff Be­zos owns The Washington Post.)

One click of the red-and-white but­ton and McCann’s soft­ware pro­gram sends a de­tailed com­plaint di­rectly to the agency in charge.

“Air­port au­thor­i­ties don’t make it easy to file noise com­plaints, but we do,” McCann’s site boasts.

McCann launched Airnoise in 2017 to help fel­low res­i­dents in their fight about noise from flights at San Diego In­ter­na­tional Air­port, near his home in La Jolla. Word quickly spread and soon other com­mu­ni­ties’ res­i­dents, who are en­gaged in sim­i­lar skir­mishes, wanted the but­tons.

So far, he’s sent out over 700 of the click­ers. As of mid-De­cem­ber, users had filed 1.1 mil­lion noise com­plaints at 29 U.S. air­ports.

Scott Stev­son, who works with the Quiet Skies Coali­tion group near Seat­tle, said the two dozen but­tons the group re­cently or­dered, were quickly snapped up.

Mark An­der­son, who lives in Park Ridge, Ill., keeps his on his night­stand — all the bet­ter to re­port those late-night flights into O’Hare In­ter­na­tional Air­port. Since he and his wife Mary got their but­tons four months ago, they’ve filed roughly 5,000 com­plaints.

“It’s al­most too easy,” he said. “But these are real com­plaints.”

Even be­fore the ar­rival of Airnoise, air­ports had been deal­ing with a surge in com­plaints linked to the Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ef­fort to mod­ern­ize the air traf­fic sys­tem, known as NextGen.

The multi­bil­lion-dol­lar pro­gram is chang­ing the way air traf­fic is man­aged, mov­ing it from radar to satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion. Pro­po­nents say it makes the air traf­fic sys­tem more ef­fi­cient be­cause it al­lows planes to fly more di­rect routes to their des­ti­na­tions.

But the shift has an­gered res­i­dents, who live in neigh­bor­hoods that are be­low the new flight paths. Res­i­dents in north­west Washington sued the FAA over the changes, but lost in court. A suit filed by the state of Mary­land is pend­ing.

McCann was one of those af­fected. He lived in La Jolla for more than a decade and, other than the oc­ca­sional stray plane, had not had prob­lems with noise. But that changed in fall 2016.

As he got more in­volved in the is­sue, he re­al­ized it wasn’t easy to file a com­plaint with the lo­cal air­port author­ity. Those who were able to fig­ure out how to do so of­ten couldn’t pro­vide the kind of de­tailed in­for­ma­tion use­ful to of­fi­cials.

He re­mem­bered read­ing a story about a guy who’d rigged a Dash But­ton to do­nate $5 to the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union ev­ery time he got an­gry at Don­ald Trump. He fig­ured he could do some­thing sim­i­lar.

When users press the but­ton, Airnoise uses pub­licly avail­able data sources to de­ter­mine which air­craft is clos­est to a per­son’s home. It gath­ers in­for­ma­tion about the flight and sends it to the lo­cal air­port author­ity.

Users sign up via the Airnoise web­site. With a free ac­count, users can file up to 15 com­plaints a month; for $5 a month, they can file un­lim­ited com­plaints. The but­ton costs $24. McCann, who has a full-time day job, says he charges just enough to cover his costs.

The but­ton may make its users feel good, but whether it will be ef­fec­tive in the bat­tle against air­plane noise is un­clear. Air­port of­fi­cials of­ten try to down­play com­plaints by not­ing that they are the work of just a few peo­ple. Mary­land air­port of­fi­cials, for ex­am­ple, were quick to note that 80 per­cent of all the com­plaints filed in 2018 came from fewer than 100 users of the Airnoise app. McCann said he tan­gled with a few air­ports that early on tried to block re­ports gen­er­ated by Airnoise.

Still, some air­port of­fi­cials say more in­for­ma­tion is al­ways help­ful.

“The bot­tom line for us is if you are an in­di­vid­ual ex­press­ing a com­plaint about air­port noise, we don’t care about how we’re get­ting the in­for­ma­tion,” said Mike Jeck, man­ager of the noise of­fice for the Metropoli­tan Washington Air­ports Author­ity.

Deck­ert says she firmly be­lieves that com­plain­ing does make a dif­fer­ence. When her Airnoise but­ton ar­rived in Au­gust, she hooked it on to a lan­yard so she’d have it with her all the time. The but­ton has clearly got­ten a lot of use: A few weeks ago, the bat­tery gave out. So for now, she’s us­ing her iPad to file com­plaints.

“Peo­ple can try to dis­credit me, but I don’t worry about that,” she said. She paused and re­mem­bered the day she filed her first com­plaint with the Airnoise but­ton.

“It felt so good,” she said. “It’s highly, highly ther­a­peu­tic. It makes you feel like you can make a dif­fer­ence.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.