Ridge Meadows residents who have had their nerves tested by loud, low-flying planes and helicopters will be pleased to know the local airport has been hard at work on a plan to reduce noise in-and-around their flight space.
Guy Miller, general manager for the Pitt Meadows Airport gave a presentation for Pitt Meadows city council on July 14, outlining the plan, which he said took 18 months to complete.
To begin with, he explained how busy the air traffic space in the Lower Mainland is by showing a diagram illustrating air traffic from one day in July 2019.
Directly above the Pitt Meadows Airport was a tight ball of criss-crossing lines.
The point of the slide, the airport manager said, is to remind everyone of the complexity and volume of traffic moving throughout the Lower Mainland airports.
“Like I’ve said many times before, it’s some of the busiest air space in the country,” Miller noted.
The general manager added there were 144,000 aircraft movements at the local airport in 2019, putting it in the top 12 of airports nationwide.
Over a five year period from Jan 1 2015 to December 31 2019, Miller said the airport received 271 noise complaints.
Residents of Pitt Meadows accounted for 216 of the complaints, 28 came from Maple Ridge, and the remainder from surrounding communities.
“Most of the problems were associated with the noise in the [standard path for coordinating air traffic] and the individuals making the complaints felt [the aircraft] were too low, too loud, or [there was] excessive noise due to too much circling.”
After gathering community input and recommendations, Miller said the Pitt Meadows Airport Society Board instructed him to work with Nav Canada – a private not-for-profit that owns and operates Canada’s civil air navigation system – as well as Transport Canada, to establish enhanced noise mitigation procedures at YPK.
“I met with all of our helicopter companies, and met with all the owners, pilots and a number of our flight schools, and every single float plane company at our airport,” Miller said. “And walked through what we are trying to do with the noise mitigation at the airport.
“I talked to them about avoiding the use of the noise sensitive areas to all extent practical.”
New amendments – established after the consultations – were placed into the latest edition of the Canada Flight Supplement: an airport directory, which contains information on runway data, arrival and departure procedures, as well as air traffic control.
Miller stipulates that while they will do their best to adhere to the new practices, there are going to be instances where an operations concern, or necessity for safety will take priority over noise mitigation.
Moving forward, he said he will continue to work with airport tenants as well as off-airport users, and community members, to monitor and evaluate noise mitigation procedures for the future.
Councillor Bob Meachan, who has been part of the airport advisory committee, said the presentation was great but said he has noticed some issues with float planes.
“One or two seem to be a lot noisier than others,” he said, before asking Miller if anything can be done about the owners of those crafts.
The airport manager said it would be difficult.
“It’s kind of like a noisy car,” he said. “You’re relying on the good will of some of these pilots and a lot of it can come down to their technique.
“There’s a lot you can do in the cockpit in regards to throttle management and power management to pull the RPM back and your [propeller] blades and pitch back to reduce that noise.”
Miller did say, however, he would try and speak with the float plane owners when reports come in.
The issue of late night flying was broached by Coun. Gwen O’Connell.
“It seems like there are still pilots coming over and doing circuit training late at night,” she said.
Miller said that has been an issue with airports all over the lower mainland.
“Even though our towers are shut, it doesn’t mean people can’t come in an do a circuit,” he said, Telling O’Connell, if a complaint is a lodged, the airport can look at the tower tapes and find out who is running the circuits late at night.
“I would get on the horn pretty quick and chat with them about common sense,” Miller said.
“We don’t want circuits being done at one-o-clock in the morning at Pitt Meadows Airport.”
Mayor Dingwall made some final comments after the presentation.
“We have an airport,” he pointed out.
“It’s going to be noisy, as planes make noise. If people are expecting there won’t be any noise, you’re likely living in the wrong area.”
Former city councillor, Ken Joyner, in a phone interview with The News, said he is seeing more-and more planes flying over the Wildwood neighbourhood in which he lives.
It is the helicopters which are really bothering him and his neighbours though, he said.
“Yesterday or the day before they came over, and, boom-boom-boom-boom,” he exclaimed mimicking their noise.
“They don’t care about residents. They just fly over anywhere.”
Joyner, who has been living in Pitt Meadows since 1944, said he knows it is difficult to stop the growth the city is going through, but would appreciate a little more serenity
“The residents came here because it was nice and quiet, and it was a natural place, and so many things are changing now, and residents who like myself, who have been here a long time, we’re having a hard time accepting it.”