One might expect to hear airplane noise living close to an airport, but not out in rural Carver County. But that’s been the case for some time now, according to rural Cologne resident Dave Larson.
Larson lives just north of Maria Lake, and the areas south of Cologne and around Hamburg and Carver have been literally buzz-bombed with small aircraft flights, he says. The flights often start at 7 a.m. and sometimes don’t end until 7 p.m. The noise has gotten so bad that Larson has considered selling his place.
The small planes originate from Flying Cloud Airport in Eden Prairie, generally air traffic from flight schools.
“I didn’t notice the noise as much when I was working, but now that I’m retired and at home it has become very noticeable,” Larson said.
So noticeable that he has been tracking flight activity and repeatedly filed complaints with various agencies like the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), flight schools, even individual pilots. In the process, Larson has learned about an app call Flightracker24, where he can actually follow flight activity and flight paths, even individual aircraft numbers. Larson also has gotten to know the names of a few agency contacts, even their direct lines.
“Most of the people around me are farmers. They’re either too busy, or not the type to complain,” said Larson. But he is not afraid to voice his concerns.
And apparently, he’s not the only one.
During the third quarter of 2020, almost 9,500 complaints had been filed about flights originating from Flying Cloud, according to MAC reports. That’s more than five times the number of complaints filed during the same period in 2019.
Ironically, while commercial flights may be down do to COVID-19, small airports in the metro area are bustling thanks in part to a soaring interest in flying lessons, the Minneapolis StarTribune reported Nov. 30. Flying Cloud and Anoka County-Blaine are seeing a spike in activity as pilots and aspiring pilots brush up on skills, earn flying credentials, or learn to fly a plane.
Not surprisingly, the increase in flight activity has led to an increase in complaints.
The complaints range in order by number to noise, noise frequency, time of flights, and planes flying low – beneath height limits.
“Many community members have reached out to us, and both the MAC and members of the Flying Cloud Airport Advisory Commission have had extensive communication with members of the community and pilots about the repetitiveness of FCM training flights,” said Jennifer Lewis, MAC community relations coordinator.
To help alleviate concerns, MAC leaders and staff met with each flight school at Flying Cloud to share the feedback and discuss various measures to help reduce the impacts, according to Lewis.
In addition to those flight school meetings, separate meetings were held with aircraft operators in numerous virtual settings to share information about noise abatement flight procedures and pilot awareness for sensitive areas. The latest meeting was held Dec. 5.
Larson himself also received a personal letter recently from an FAA regional lead about the issue.
He says he has gotten responses like those before, and sometimes flight activity backs off for a while, only to resume again. For example, there was a lull right after Thanksgiving, but by the following Wednesday, the flights were back.
“It has gotten a lot better, but some planes are still a problem, almost to the point of harassment” said Larson. He continues to keep an eye on the sky, a vigilant ear out for noise, and vows to continue the flight fight.