Frequently Asked Questions
Why can't the airplanes fly over some other neighborhood?
Airports often have certain traffic patterns that aircraft must follow in order to avoid collision with other aircraft, buildings and landmarks. Wind direction and speed determine which runway will be used for takeoff and landing. Traffic patterns are dependent on which runways are in use.
Why are airplanes suddenly flying over my house when they haven't for months?
Due to weather or wind conditions, aircraft are forced to use the most suitable runway to make safe landings. This, occasionally, causes the planes to shift traffic patterns or flow and land on runways that are not often used. Also, when runways are closed for various reasons, aircraft must use other runways that bring them over different neighborhoods.
Why can't airplanes fly in from a different direction and then turn to land, instead of flying right over my house?
Traffic patterns are designed for efficient and safe runway use at an airport. Noise considerations are always made in conjunction with these patterns. Aircraft must follow these paths in order to land safely. Transport aircraft are not physically designed to make sharp turns without creating certain safety hazards.
How do I know if an aircraft is flying over my house at the correct altitude?
Generally speaking unless an aircraft is operating over sparsely populated areas it is required to operate 1,000 feet above property on the ground except during takeoff or landing. For operations over sparsely populated areas the requirement is 500 feet. Arriving and departing traffic at PBI are under the control of the Air Traffic Control Tower and Approach facility. They ensure aircraft are flying at correct altitudes, speed and course. For complaints contact: South Florida FSDO - Contact the Office (faa.gov).
Who can I talk to and what can I do to have my noise issues addressed?
You may contact the Noise Hotline for PBI at 561-683-7242. We also have an online form available on this website for the public regarding noise issues. The Department of Airports also has the Citizens Committee on Airport Noise (CCAN). Meetings are generally held 4 times a year. Dates and times are posted here.
What should I discuss with my real estate agent or owner before purchasing a home near the vicinity of the Airport?
Have a discussion with your realtor about aircraft noise that may affect your satisfaction with your potential new home.
- Visit the home multiple times, on different days, at different times (time of year and weather affect aircraft noise). This will increase your chances of experiencing aircraft flights to determine what impact they will have on daily life.
- Make sure the realtor doesn't persuade you to visit during off-peak times or just times that are convenient to the realtor.
- Check the airport’s flight schedules for departure and arrival times so you can plan a visit to the home during busy hours.
- Be specific and be sure to ask your realtor, the neighbors, and the current owner, if possible, about the impact of aircraft noise.
- Ask about any existing complaints or avigation easements attached to the house deed. If so, this means that the house is within 65 DNL, or in very close proximity to the airport. Read the easement so you are aware of noise complaint procedures. Avigation easements (right of overflight in the airspace above or in the vicinity of a particular property) are perpetual.
- Be sure to address any additional concerns you may have with the real estate agent or owner.
Is the value of my house going to decrease because of the airport or aircraft noise?
The value of your house should not decrease because of its proximity to the airport or the aircraft noise; however, you should talk to a real estate agent that is familiar with land value around airports to get an accurate evaluation for your location.
Why are planes flying in MY airspace right over my house?
Individuals do not have specific rights to the airspace above their houses. There are any number of reasons why an aircraft may be operating over a particular house.
Why do some airplanes make noises that sound different or are louder than other airplanes?
There are many different types of aircraft that fly today. Each type has different features and capabilities. Some aircraft make more noise than others because of the type of engines they have. Also, larger aircraft tend to make more noise than smaller aircraft, though this is not always the case. Your proximity to the aircraft affects the volume of sound you hear. The volume of noise also depends on the age of the aircraft. Newer aircraft have engines that are designed with technology so that they are quieter. Different engines and airframes have entirely different noises associated with flight. Most small non-jet aircraft do not fall under the noise level requirements established by the FAA. Because of this, smaller aircraft may be even louder than larger aircraft.
Why do some aircraft rumble, whine, and make my house vibrate?
Some aircraft tend to make a rumbling sound because their engines produce a lower frequency noise. This lower frequency is what causes vibrations. Newer engine designs reduce the amount of low frequency noise.
Why do the aircraft fly so low?
Aircraft have to fly low in order to properly line up with the runways, execute safe landings and also to avoid severe weather. Aircraft may, however, appear to be lower than they actually are because their large sizes make them look closer. Also, when the airspace is crowded, aircraft may be held at a lower altitude to avoid conflicts with other aircraft. Approaching aircraft may spend time flying a holding pattern at relatively low altitude in order to ensure a suitable flow of traffic. This may make it seem as though they are flying lower than usual. In general, air traffic is restricted by local airspace limitations. For complaints: South Florida FSDO (faa.gov).
What is the Department of Airports doing to mitigate the noise?
Noise can be mitigated through a variety of methods. The airport has implemented noise-reducing flight patterns and arrival/departure procedures to control the source of noise in cooperation with the FAA Control Tower. Arrival and departure corridors were established to reduce the noise footprint over our local communities. An FAA Part 150 noise study for the Palm Beach International Airport was completed years ago and a Noise Compatibility Plan (NCP) was implemented identifying these procedures and protocols which are in use today.
Why can't planes fly only during the day?
Some traffic must fly at night in order to meet today's business needs. Companies like FedEx and UPS rely on night flight and are an essential part of our fast-paced business environment that guarantees overnight delivery to satisfy the needs of customers. Some traffic flies later at night in order to compensate for time differences in other parts of the world. Airports in the U.S. are required to be open 24 hours a day and cannot restrict operations due to federal law.
Why are the planes flying over my house?
Varying weather and operational conditions influence the flight patterns of aircraft near airports. Wind has the greatest impact on flight paths as aircraft need to land and take-off into the wind. As the wind changes, the flight paths change accordingly. This explains an airport's need to have multiple runways pointing in different directions. Also, depending on aircraft volume, air traffic control will put aircraft in holding patterns, increase aircraft spacing, or set aside noise abatement procedures in the interest of safety. This may also occur because of air traffic limitations within our local airspace, possibly relating to neighboring airports. Aircraft are limited to where they can fly because of established flight paths, approach paths, and departure paths. These paths are established and published to enhance safety during flight
I am nowhere near the airport. Why are the airplanes flying so low over my house?
Aircraft are limited in the direction they fly because they must land into the wind. Therefore, the flexibility of air traffic is dependent on the wind patterns of the day or, even, the hour, as winds can change rapidly. If the winds change, the air traffic controllers may need to change runway usage and, thus, the flight paths.
Why do planes always come from the same direction?
To enhance safety and ensure an efficient flow of traffic, airports follow an established pattern and as a result cannot change flight paths. There are also restrictions due to airspace limitations. An aircraft's speed and weight determines how far in advance it must line up with the runway to execute a safe landing. Typically, aircraft must be in line with the runway at least five miles out.
Who regulates airplane noise?
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), under FAR Part 36, governs the certification of aircraft as it relates to noise levels. Depending on the type of aircraft, FAR Part 36 determines the maximum allowable noise level. The FAA also follows the model of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) which sets global aircraft noise standards known as Stages. Currently, the FAA mandates that all aircraft that fly within the United States comply with Stage 3 requirements and all new aircraft comply with Stage 5 requirements which are 17 decibels less than Stage 3.
What are some of the things being done to reduce the noise?
Over the past few decades, improved aircraft engine technology has greatly reduced the amount of noise produced by engines. Airports across the country are utilizing extensive noise abatement procedures including preferred runways, delayed turn-outs and higher departure altitudes. Airports such as PBI also, have noise abatement staff, noise monitors and flight tracking systems to address community concerns.
Why do planes have to fly over residential areas?
Aircraft must fly over residential areas because of the small distances between some airports and neighborhoods. Therefore, it is sometimes necessary for aircraft to fly over these residential areas in order for aircraft to safely reach the airports. Air traffic control procedures often try to minimize the number of aircraft flying over homes. Unfortunately, in the interest of safety, this is not always possible.
Who has the ultimate control of the air above my house?
The federal government has jurisdiction over United States airspace. No individual may claim ownership of airspace over his or her property. Airspace is considered to be public domain and may be used by anyone as long as they do not interfere or endanger the people and property on the ground below. Once an aircraft pushes back from the gate, the airport no longer controls the movements or actions of the aircraft. The responsibility is shifted to the pilots and Air Traffic Control (ATC). The FAA determines which runways are in use for arrivals and departures or the pilot at an uncontrolled airport. Air Traffic Controllers are employed by the U.S. government or by private companies who are contracted by the U.S. government.
What is the reason for the repetition of aircraft after aircraft overhead?
The most efficient way airports can operate is to land and depart aircraft on certain runways for an extended period of time. This means that while the winds are blowing from a constant direction the aircraft will always be flying into the wind. While approaching the airport, the aircraft will be in a line several miles apart flying into the wind getting ready to land. The repetition of aircraft you hear from the ground is the noise the "lined up" aircraft are making while on their approach or, in the opposite case, taking off.
Are there consequences for pilots who do not follow noise abatement procedures?
Pilots are required to follow the directions of air traffic controllers and FAA regulations. Palm Beach County initiated a Noise Compatibility Study under Federal Aviation Regulation Part 150 (14 CFR Part 150), which is a voluntary program used to address airport noise and non-compatible land uses. Noise abatement procedures were approved by the FAA as a part of the Part 150 process and are assigned by FAA Air Traffic Control as voluntary measures, wind, weather and traffic permitting; however, there is no penalty for failing to utilize noise abatement procedures.
Why can't planes descend at a steeper angle so they fly higher over my house?
Can the Department of Airports require aircraft to fly at higher altitudes?
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has the sole authority to control air traffic. Neither Palm Beach County nor the Department of Airports can regulate the altitude, speed, direction, or location of aircraft in flight. If you have any questions about aircraft in flight, or wish to report an unsafe flight operation, including low altitude flights, contact the local Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) at (954) 641-6000 or visit their website South Florida FSDO - Contact the Office (faa.gov).
Parts of this document were obtained through Noisequest © 2018 The Pennsylvania State University