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Noise

Recognizing that noise is a significant side effect of aviation, TAA developed and continues to refine a program that limits the impact of aircraft noise on the Tucson community. TAA is currently updating the Tucson International Airport Part 150 Study. The Study provides guidance and recommended strategies for ensuring the airport's compatibility with the surrounding community. Since the program's initial adoption in 1991, numerous policy, abatement and mitigation strategies have been implemented successfully; these implementing actions are further described below.

Please visit the Part 150 Study Update project website, for general information and a schedule for upcoming workshops; we encourage anyone who is interested in noise at Tucson International Airport to attend a workshop or to contact Jordan Feld, TAA Director of Planning.

Jordan D. Feld, CM, AICP
Director of Planning, Economic Development
& Government Relations

jfeld@flytucson.com
TEL: (520) 573-5115
FAX: (520) 573-8006 

Runway Displacement

In 1988 TAA moved Tucson International Airport's main runway, 11L-29R, 1/2 mile to the southeast. This moved aircraft takeoffs and landings further away from populated areas. The shift also increased the altitude of aircraft arriving over populated areas, which keeps the highest noise exposure on airport property.

Preferential Runway Usage

To minimize the impact of noise for residents nearest the airport, the FAA air traffic control tower at TIA follows a preferential runway use policy that keeps the bulk of aircraft noise over the less-populated desert southeast of TIA. (Refer to map for runway locations.)

Durilng daylight hours, and contingent upon weather conditions, pilots are asked to land from the northwest and takeoff to the southeast when using TIA's main runway 11L-29R.

During nighttime hours (10:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.), preference is given to conducting arrivals from and departures to the southeast when wind, weather and level of traffic permit.

Phase Out of Noisiest Commercial Aircraft

Airplanes are getting quieter. In 1990 the U.S. Congress ordered the FAA to phase out noisier "stage 2" jets by the year 2000 by passing the Airport Noise and Capacity Act.

Land Use Regulations

Both Pima County and the City of Tucson have adopted formal zoning ordinances in areas exposed to high levels of aircraft noise. These ordinances regulate development that is sensitive to noise. For example, residences and schools are more affected by aircraft noise than a factory. The sound ordinances also require sound insulation for new buildings in which interior noise is a concern.

Avigation Easement

In 2004 the TAA Board of Directors approved an Avigation Easement Policy requesting avigation easement and disclosure statements for any proposed change in plan designation or zoning around Tucson International Airport and Ryan Airfield. The area is defined by the Federal Aviation Administration, FAA, as Traffic Pattern Airspace and includes consideration for future planned runways. The policy formalizes TAA's long history of seeking protections around the airfields to encourage compatibility and quality of life for residents and business adjacent to the airports. Both Pima County and the City of Tucson have made the FAA Traffic Pattern Airspace maps part of the public record as has the State of Arizona Department of Real Estate.

Residential Sound Insulation

From 1992 to 2012, the Residential Sound Insulation Program provided acoustical treatment to minimize noise in neighborhoods near the airport. Funded by grants from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Arizona Department of Transportation, as well as matching TAA funds, the voluntary program retrofitted 1,121 eligible homes and one school with specialized windows and doors and modified ventilation systems at no cost to homeowners.

Land Acquisition

To create a noise "buffer" around TIA and promote compatibility, Tucson Airport Authority implemented a land acquisition program targeting property primarily to the southeast. TAA has purchased nearly 3,000 acres of vacant land adjacent to the airport's original boundary.

Maintenance Engine Runups

Often aircraft mechanics must test an engine at high levels while the aircraft is parked on the ground to assure that repairs and maintenance have been successful. TIA has designated that engine runups should be performed on a specially constructed runup apron at the southeast end of the airport, as far from populated areas as possible. The runup apron is shielded from areas around the airport by a dirt wall that absorbs and dissipates the engine noise.

Arizona Air National Guard

One of the noisiest aircraft using TIA is the Arizona Air National Guard F-16 Fighter. The Air National Guard (ANG) has been operating out of TIA since 1956. Today, the TIA ANG base is home to one of the world's top two F-16 training squadrons.

In August 1994 the Tucson Airport Authority and the Arizona Air National Guard signed a "letter of agreement" which included:

  • Restricting the total annual number of ANG operations at TIA
  • Limiting the use of afterburners - which are extremely noisy - to no more than 10% of annual F-16 takeoffs.
  • Restricting F-16 afterburner usage to southeast takeoffs, over vacant land, whenever possible.
  • Eliminating ANG flight training or engine runups between 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.