Long Beach Airport: How does the city noise ordinance work?

I wrote in Monday’s Long Beach Press-Telegram about the restrictive noise ordinance for Long Beach Airport in the city of Long Beach. Airlines and operators can actually be held on misdemeanor criminal charges if they break local rules.

The noise ordinance has different sound limits depending on the time of day. Fines go up to $300 per infraction, but I was told JetBlue actually pays a lot more. The reason is because JetBlue – by far the biggest commercial operator in Long Beach — entered in a consent decree several years ago with the city. In exchange for not being held for criminal prosecution, the airline gives generation donations to the city’s library.

Here’s some of the gist of the program, from the story:

The system works by measuring decibel levels. During the day, arriving aircraft must make no more than 101.5 decibels, as measured by a monitoring station near the runway, an airport official said. Departing aircraft can make up to 102.5 decibels. Between 6 and 7 a.m. and between 10 and 11 p.m., the decibel maximum drops to around 90. In the overnight hours, the decibel limit drops to 79.

According to airport data, JetBlue operated 22 times between 10 and 11 p.m. in June. In 13 of those instances, the carrier’s pilots violated the noise ordinance.

Restrictive noise ordinances like these are no longer legal under federal law, but Long Beach’s policies are protected by Congressional statute, officials said.

Also, it’s worth noting that military jets are exempt from the ordinance.

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