Winton critical of proposed ‘airplane superhighways’

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September 9, 2013 // UPDATED 4:54 pm - September 9, 2013
By: Sarah McKenzie
Cam Winton at a press conference earlier today at 58th & Pleasant.
Sarah McKenzie

Mayoral candidate Cam Winton denounced a proposal to implement what he dubbed  “airplane superhighways” over neighborhoods in southwest Minneapolis at a press conference this afternoon in the Windom neighborhood.

The proposed flight routes would mean that households living under the path of the planes would experience four to five times the airport noise level they currently experience, he said — roughly the equivalent of a vacuum cleaner running 120 times a day at a 70-decibel noise level.

“Imagine how much that disrupts the concentration of a small child,” Winton said, who brought a vacuum cleaner along to illustrate his point. “Imagine how much that disrupts your ability to enjoy your backyard. It simply would be unacceptable.”

The Federal Aviation Administration is studying an option to partially implement RNAV (an abbreviation for area navigation) over southwest neighborhoods. The proposal would consolidate flight traffic from 30 flight tracks down to seven, Winton said.

The FAA is rolling out RNAV across the country in an effort to improve efficiency, streamline communication and improve safety.

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison and city leaders recently held a community meeting Aug. 27 at Washburn High School to discuss potential changes to flight paths out of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

“This issue is so pressing that it really needs strong, consistent and focused mayoral-level leadership and attention,” Winton said. “This problem is not going away on its own.”

Winton said community leaders need to question whether RNAV needs to be implemented at MSP, adding “RNAV is a solution in search of a problem.”

He argued it wouldn’t have much of an impact on reducing pollution and the proposed benefits of reducing flight delays is not an issue that needs to be addressed at MSP.

If the FAA insists on implementing the new flight path plans, Winton said he would advocate for more flight paths if elected mayor and push for runways at MSP to be utilized more effectively.

Winton also called for a new “modern, comprehensible” system to measure airport noise levels experienced by residents. The current system, DNL, is too confusing, he said. A better system would be to calculate how many times a day a household is impacted by noisy airplanes — a system in place in California.