February 7, 2023
By Tom Fagerstrom, Airport Noise Programs Coordinator
Airplane noise in the middle of the night is a problem for communities near the airport and those living under the flight path. To start conversations and address community concerns, the SEA Stakeholder Advisory Round Table (StART) was formed in 2018.
Members include the Port of Seattle, the cities of SeaTac, Burien, Des Moines, Normandy Park, Federal Way and Tukwila, as well as Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and a cargo representative. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) provides agency expertise.
Developed by StART, the voluntary Late-Night Noise Limitation Program began in late 2019 to focus attention on air carriers that operate at SEA between the hours of 12:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. Utilizing SEA Airport’s noise monitoring system, carriers operating aircraft that emit the highest noise levels during these sensitive hours receive enhanced scrutiny. Airport officials reach out to carriers with the highest noise levels during these hours and the results are posted publicly and discussed at StART meetings.
The first quarterly results from 2019 produced a substantial list of air carriers with noisy operations during late nights, and the carrier that topped this list was EVA Airways.
EVA has offered a late night passenger flight from Seattle to Taipei for many years and has operated the Boeing 777 aircraft on this route for quite some time. When I first contacted EVA staff about their late night noise, they proactively responded and were collaborative and concerned and wanted to better understand the program. What followed were in-person meetings between SEA staff and local EVA staff to discuss ways to make their 777 departures less noisy. This dialogue also included the Boeing noise research team, and meeting details were shared with the airline’s headquarters in Taiwan. EVA’s interest in the program and on lessening their noise impacts were clearly sincere and I left each meeting impressed with how genuine they were about making a change.
In 2020, EVA began to take delivery of newer and quieter Boeing 787s. The introduction of a new aircraft type into an airline’s route system is a complex and carefully planned process. Initially, EVA did not plan to introduce the 787 to Seattle until a future date. Desiring to take a proactive stance to lower the noise of their operations at SEA during late nights, EVA decided to introduce the 787 to Seattle in the spring of 2020, much earlier than planned. This decision was made despite some obvious challenges. Changing to a new aircraft type requires extensive staff training. In addition, the 787 has fewer seats than the 777 aircraft it was replacing. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted operations and planning for airlines around the world, including EVA Air. Despite this interruption, EVA held to their plans at SEA and reintroduced the 787 early in 2021.
The Boeing 787 is one of an emerging group of long-range aircraft that are significantly quieter than the previous generation. For example, SEA’s noise monitoring system has shown that the 787 is an average of four decibels quieter than the Boeing 777 when taking off. These new aircraft types, which include the newest aircraft from Boeing as well as Airbus, are being introduced in ever-increasing numbers at SEA and we certainly encourage this trend to continue.
StART, and specifically the StART Noise Working Group, should certainly take some credit for the positive change that EVA initiated. After all, this is exactly the type of outcome that the program was designed to incentivize. And it is certainly an outcome that I hope other air carriers operating at higher noise levels at SEA will consider undertaking.
“As one of the Normandy Park community representatives on StART, it is very encouraging to see EVA Airways show an interest in our ideas and help us and our airport partners think of new ways to mitigate overnight aircraft noise,” stated Normandy Park StART Community Representative Eric Zimmerman. “The support from EVA Airways demonstrates that we are all one community, and the collaborative model of StART is a wonderful means to making positive changes like this possible.”
I also believe it’s important to point out that the change to a quieter aircraft would not be possible without a clear commitment from a carrier as forward-thinking as EVA Airways. In recognition of their achievement, a letter was recently sent to EVA signed by the mayors of all six near-airport cities as well as Port Commission President Fred Felleman and SEA Managing Director Lance Lyttle.
“EVA is committed to being a good neighbor to the cities in proximity to SEA. We are especially gratified that SEA and StART have worked with us to identify options and consistently communicate the effectiveness of our actions,” stated Ken Chung, Senior Vice President, America Head Office — EVA Airways
EVA Airways is very proud of its long history of providing service to Seattle and is clearly committed to being a good neighbor to our local airport community. We thank them for continuing to be a strong partner at SEA and in our region. And I recently had a chance to thank them in person for their successful efforts at limiting the noise of their nightly operations.
Top photo credit: "Jet City Moon" by Ingrid Taylar is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
February 7, 2023
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