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A graphic shared with Eagan’s Airport Relations Committee in July shows Runway 17 departure events from 2018 above 65 decibels. The graphic is part of the Metropolitan Airports Commission Runway 17 Departure Study.

City Council approves letter urging changes to FAA

During the past four years, statistics have shown an increase in departures over Eagan from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Eagan’s Ted Gladhill said during Tuesday’s Eagan City Council meeting there are about 1,000 flights a month going directly over his house.

“We’ve had more than 100 in a single day,” Gladhill said.

Gladhill said he moved to the house before Runway 17 built. While he recognizes there’s been airport noise in the community for decades, “this is not the same as the past.”

The City Council approved a letter Tuesday to send to the MSP Noise Oversight Committee with a request for the Federal Aviation Administration to make some changes.

While it’s unlikely departures will decrease at this point, the city is asking the FAA to direct departing flights on Runway 17 over “more compatible land uses,” Assistant City Administrator Diane Miller said.

Runway 17 departures leave airspace over northwestern and central Eagan, along with northeastern Burnsville.

While the city doesn’t have authority over the FAA, it can ask for adjustments.

“Ultimately the FAA has full jurisdiction over the airspace over Eagan,” Miller said.

In the letter, the city made the suggestion to direct airplanes over the Minnesota River and major highways instead of residential areas.

“That could be large roadways, large swaths of green space, industrial property, or waterways,” Miller said. “We want to move as many departures as possible away from the residents of Eagan.”

Another suggestion in the letter recommends several specific turn restrictions on departing airplanes after they take off.

The suggestions are the result of Eagan’s Airport Relations Committee and residents working with the city for the past few months to brainstorm solutions, Miller said.

Residents, including Gladhill, who spoke during Tuesday’s meeting, were supportive of the letter saying it’s a good start.

“Hopefully the FAA will give serious consideration to our request,” Miller said.

The Noise Oversight Committee will meet again Sept. 18 before sending it on to the Metropolitan Airports Commission.

“Early December is when the MAC would consider the letter,” Miller said. “This (letter) is a step in the process. It’s our way of advocating for residents.”

Noise levels over Eagan have increased since 2015 after the implementation of the Converging Runway Operations rule, which increased safety measures at airports where runways cross each other.

Earlier this summer, MAC reported its findings from a Runway 17 Departure Study to Eagan’s Airport Relations Committee.

Runway 17 was used for approximately 25 percent of all departures at MSP Airport before the CRO was implemented. But since 2015, the usage of Runway 17 for departures has increased to 33.7 percent, with many of those departures flying over predominately residential areas of Eagan.

“The use of the runway has increased and that’s not debatable,” said Brad Juffer, manager of community relations with MAC during an Airport Relations Commissions meeting in July. “The increase is because of the CRO and that’s not debatable. The use of the runway and how it’s being used, there are very subtle changes that have nothing to do with the CRO. It’s just being used more often.”

Other reasons for the increase are due to weather and pilot preference.

It’s unlikely departures will decrease at this point.

In a response to the study the FAA has said they’ve reached a “steady state” with the CRO.

The report states, “We believe we have achieved optimal utilization given the existing state of technology.”

“They believe what they’re doing now is working well and they don’t anticipate a lot of changes,” Miller said.

Depending on the weather, it’s safer and more efficient to use certain runways.

“The FAA has communicated numerous times that safety is the No. 1 priority both in the air and on the ground,” Miller said.

The FAA has listened in the past. The FAA agreed to no longer accommodate requests by pilots to use Runway 17 in the overnight hours when the parallel runways provide a safe alternative.

Miller emphasized that it’s a voluntary agreement.

Residents want this to be just the beginning.

“This is a hopefully starting point,” Gladhill said. “It’s not the end. It’s not going to solve it all. There’s a lot of work and commitment ahead of us.”

Miller said the FAA may be doing an environmental assessment or impact statement in the future that could lead to changes, so the timing for the letter is hopefully right.

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