Residents and building occupants in Lindbergh Field’s flight path might think twice about opening windows to enjoy San Diego’s weather. Along with all the sunshine could come air traffic noise from airplanes zooming overhead.
Time to call in a complaint to the airport? Or, nowadays, consumers can go to a computer and type in the link to an online monitoring system that can answer at least some questions about noise in the neighborhoods.
In September 2006, San Diego International Airport became the first to launch a new collaborative version of PASSUR AirportMonitor, billed as the airport industry’s leading Web-based airspace education tool for communities.
The software lets consumers get answers online to their questions about air traffic in their neighborhoods, using what is called “near live” and replay mode, and includes such features as “My Home Locator,” allowing consumers to punch in their addresses for a more detailed report.
While promoting better communication, the site is designed to reduce the number of inquiries to airports. When the airports do get calls, they tend to be more informed, said Ron Dunsky, vice president of marketing and new product development for Connecticut-based Megadata Corp., which owns PASSUR.
“Then the airport has an easier time explaining certain things by looking at the same visual on the Web,” he said.
This community relations tool is designed to give the public “a better understanding of how airspace works,” said Dunsky.
“If you think that there has been an increase in flight activity at a particular time of day over your neighborhood, with this tool, you can look it up yourself and see if your perceptions are accurate, or if you misread or misunderstood them,” he said.
The system also is meant to “set the standard for transparency and openness, and a new level of trust between the airport and community,” said Dunsky, who cites his C3 credo , coordination, communication and consistent information.
“The airport is sharing information on airspace with the public in a very secure way,” he said. “Rather than looking at what happened, this allows the airport to explain why something might be happening in real time. They can put out messages to explain to the public, on a particular day or moment, noting unusual changes in flight patterns, in the ways that planes are landing or taking off.”
This represents a change in the way information is being handled, said Dunsky.
“The airport now is able to communicate with the public about certain things that, in the past, were considered strictly operational , the runway being serviced or a sudden weather event that has caused a change in flight patterns for the afternoon,” he said.
A Sound Investment
Dan Frazee, Lindbergh Field’s deputy director of airport noise mitigation, said the software cost $60,000. An additional $46,000 a year is needed to maintain the site.
“I’m very happy to see that the community is using the site,” said Frazee. ” I have since seen that this product is something that can help us educate the community about our operations.”
How has it been working out?
“We have noticed that the number of total complaints has come down,” said Frazee. “We don’t know if this is all assigned to the airport monitor, but it’s a contributing factor.”
Within the past six months, he said, hits on the site have ranged from 300 a month to 4,500 a month. Why the wide disparity?
“I think that it depends on how much news there has been about the (San Diego County Regional) Airport Authority,” he said. “This causes us to get more comments and complaints, the more we’re in the news.”
The heaviest complaint months are during the summer, June through August, said Frazee.
“People have their windows open during that time and it’s their perception that there is more aircraft or that it’s noisier.”
Frazee’s enhancements of the Web site included expanding the snapshot of the area to include outlying areas such as La Jolla. He also asked for a scrollbar to be included, giving the airport the ability to post messages.
Dunsky credits Frazee for his contributions.
“He gave it shape, defined it and pushed it to execution,” said Dunsky. “He has a great feeling for the new dimension this adds to the management of community relations for the airport.”
No registration or fee is required to enter the Web site. Just type in www.san.org on a Web browser, go to the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority site, and then click on “airport noise,” select “flight tracker,” and then visit the Airport/Monitor link.