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Airport Noise FAQs

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Why are planes allowed to take off and land late at night?  

Trenton-Mercer is a public use airport and as such is required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and available to all aircraft. The Air Traffic Control Tower closes at 10 p.m., but aircraft still may operate after that time.

A “Voluntary Nighttime Flight Curfew” is in effect from midnight to 6 a.m. daily. The tail numbers of aircraft using TTN during the curfew period are recorded by contracted personnel, and forwarded to airport administration. If a “violation” of the voluntary curfew is identified, an advisory letter and information about TTN’s Noise Abatement Program is then sent to the owner/operator in question. Although the curfew is voluntary, and no penalties exist, activity during the midnight to 6 a.m. time period is much, much less than during normal hours of operation.

Can the airport change flight patterns?

A number of factors determine which runway to use for arrivals and departures, or which course to take. These include the judgment of the air traffic controller (during Control Tower hours of operation), the wind and other weather, surrounding air traffic, the capabilities of the aircraft, and the judgment and capabilities of the pilot. No attempt is made to use each runway an equal number of times within any given time period, or to fly over a particular neighborhood at any given interval. Safety is always Trenton-Mercer Airport’s primary concern.

Are newer jets bigger or louder?  

Frontier Airlines, which began operating at TTN in November 2012, replaced its Airbus A319s with the A320 and its newest jet, the A320neo (neo stands for new engine option) in early 2017. Although they have a bigger payload than earlier Airbus models, the A320 and A320neo are quieter and more fuel efficient. Allegiant Air, which began operating at TTN in November 2016, also uses the A320. The sizes of corporate aircraft have changed little in the last 15 years but have become safer and quieter.  The newer business jets are the most technologically advanced and quietest aircraft in service.  It is the somewhat smaller and older jet aircraft that are often the noisiest.  In December of 1999 the FAA completed a phase-out of the majority of the older and louder jet aircraft that weigh more than 75,000 pounds -- these are mostly commercial aircraft.  No such phase-out, however, was mandated for aircraft weighing less than 75,000 pounds.

Are there regulations on how low aircraft can be?  

There are three phases of aircraft operation:  departure, landing and cruising.  When aircraft – be they fixed-wing or helicopters – are taking off or landing, there are no minimum altitude requirements.  When cruising, fixed-wing aircraft should maintain 1,000 feet mean sea level (MSL) over congested areas and 500 feet MSL over other areas.  Helicopters, however, have no minimum altitude requirements.  Because of their maneuverability, helicopters can also get a Special Visual Flight Rule (SVFR) clearance that allows them to fly below the basic VFR weather minimums.  This is especially important during medivac (medical helicopter transport) operations.

How does the weather and season affect aircraft noise? 

Individuals will notice an increase in aircraft noise during warmer months when windows are usually open and people spend more time outside.  During hot and muggy summer days an aircraft’s climbing performance decreases; aircraft therefore remain lower longer and more power is required for climb-out.  More noise is also experienced during the warmer months, largely due to the moisture content in the air. On a bad-weather day, a low cloud ceiling will insulate noise, and this may be especially apparent with helicopter operations.

I’m considering purchasing a home in the vicinity of Trenton-Mercer Airport. Will the air traffic noise be a nuisance?

Despite its small stature compared to nearby metropolitan airports Newark-Liberty International and Philadelphia International,  as of 2017, Trenton-Mercer Airport averages 80,000 aircraft operations annually and is one of only three commercial airports in New Jersey. The airport hosts two commercial carriers, the aviation units of several Fortune 100 companies, the New Jersey State Police, National Guard and two fixed-base operators. Additionally, the local corridor is robust with air traffic. Transient flights worldwide fly through to use the nearby Yardley VOR (navigational beacon) to navigate up and down the East Coast of the U.S. and Canada, very large aircraft exiting or entering Newark and Philadelphia often fly through, as well as flights from local airports such as Robbinsville Airport and Princeton Airport. As a result, air traffic noise should be expected in the surrounding region, and tolerance is strictly up to the individual.

If aircraft noise can be a problem, why is the airport so close to a residential neighborhood?

Trenton-Mercer Airport opened in 1929 and has experienced ebbs and flows in service based on customer demand and cultural changes. A majority of the residential developments in the region around the airport were built long after the airport, and even today, new residential development and redevelopment abounds in the surrounding area.

Why didn’t my Realtor tell me about the airport when I bought my house? 

New Jersey State law requires that real estate agents inform potential buyers if the residence is within the Airport Safety Zone. Ultimately it is the responsibility of the buyer to research the area and satisfy his/her concerns before purchasing a home.  The Noise Abatement Officer is willing to meet with prospective buyers to provide information about the airport and answer any questions related to aircraft traffic.  For information, call (609) 882-8965.

What benefit does Trenton-Mercer Airport bring to Mercer County?  

TTN is a premier travel hub and economic engine both for the county and the region. In addition to meeting the great customer demand, the airport generates an annual economic output of more than $106 million. More than 2,000 jobs are attributable in some way to the facility. It has opened many great travel opportunities for area residents, and has opened the region to those wanting to experience our history, culture, educational institutions, and access to New York and Philadelphia, all with the resultant economic benefit.

How can I make a noise complaint?  

You can report airport noise to TTN in three easy ways. You may call the Airport Administration, weekdays, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at (609) 882-1601. You can also leave a message on our 24-hour Noise Report Hotline at (609) 882-8965, or contact us through the web at: www.mercercounty.org/airport/noise.asp. You may also contact the FAA at: www.faa.gov/region/aea/noise/framedoc.htm. The New Jersey Division of Aeronautics is also available to respond to your inquiries; their phone number is 609-530-2900.

What happens when I place a noise complaint? What does the airport do with that information?

We research all complaints.  When we receive multiple complaints from one operation, and if we are able to identify the aircraft, we will contact the operator, discuss their reason for the activity in question, review our noise abatement procedures with them, and contact the complainant(s) if needed.  We log all complaints and use the information to identify any unexpected or unusual patterns of activity.

There is a "Noise Ordinance" in my town; isn't TTN in violation if it lets aircraft fly at all hours?

No. As noted above, airport access is regulated by Federal Law, and as such, supersedes state and local ordinances.

Is the airport expanding?

No. TTN is proposing to replace our functionally obsolete two gate terminal with a new, modern facility. Our existing terminal, designed in the 1970s, is too small to allow for the adequate care and control of passengers. The retrieval and handling of luggage is equally troublesome. In addition, improvements must be performed to allow for the size and weight of new security screening equipment, mandated by the FAA. We will be upgrading and standardizing our taxiways to improve upon the high level of safety and efficiency we currently enjoy. Additional passenger parking and a new building to house maintenance and snow removal equipment are also planned. We will not be lengthening any runways. We are improving the airport, not expanding it. This “upgrade” will allow us to more effectively serve our current commercial passengers, while providing the infrastructure to serve expected demand in the future.

There was a pilot obviously flying too low or in an unsafe manner. Can I report him?

If you witness aircraft flying in an unsafe manner, please contact the FAA Philadelphia Flight Standards District Office at 610-595-1500.