Airport Noise FAQs
Aircraft noise complaints associated with the Middleton Airport can be reported this link or by calling the 24-hour hotline at 608-836-6473. Office staff will respond to requests for callbacks within three business days, during regular business hours.
It’s important to know that aircraft noise complaints alone cannot change how any airport operates. The Airport cannot prevent aircraft noise; however, staff can answer questions, provide data, and help residents understand aircraft activity.
There are many reasons why aircraft sound different from one another. The noise characteristics of an aircraft depend on aircraft type, weight, thrust, speed and airframe configuration, among other contributing factors such as ambient conditions like weather, proximity of structures/objects in the area, environment, and the aircraft angle relative to the person hearing it.
For example, different types of aircraft have variations in performance features, engine design, and aerodynamics. Some aircraft make more noise than others because of the type of engines they use. Newer aircraft and aircraft engines typically are quieter as a result of improved designs and technology, however some of the aircraft that operate at our airport may make more noise specifically during takeoff and landing based on the aircraft design that cannot be controlled by the pilot for safety and aircraft performance standards.
Many times, an aircraft will sound "deeper" or "throatier" (lower frequencies are more prevalent) when it is loaded heavily compared when it has a lighter load.
Additionally, where you are standing in reference to the aircraft and the aircraft's direction of travel matters. Many factors including reflecting surfaces, distance, aircraft type, aircraft engines, throttle position, aircraft speed, the aircraft's angle and position in relation to you and your own hearing can affect the sounds and frequencies you hear. Generally speaking aircraft sound levels are loudest the closer you are to the aircraft and when you are positioned behind the aircraft.
Proximity to an aircraft and the environment where you are standing affects the volume and frequency of aircraft sounds because the sound you hear could be reflecting from surfaces around you. Sounds from aircraft are greatest when you are behind the aircraft and off to the side slightly.
Some airports, such as San Diego International Airport and John Wayne Airport have implemented customized aircraft operating rules and restrictions on certain aircraft activity based on noise. Rules and restrictions that were implemented prior to Congress's approval of the Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990 (ANCA) are allowed to be enforced only at the airports that implemented them.
Middleton is not one of the airports that had these types of restrictions in place prior to ANCA, however, we have a voluntary Noise Abatement procedure that encourages pilots to help reduce noise over the populated areas of Middleton.
Federal Aviation Regulations prohibit airports, such as Middleton, from creating and enforcing rules that are not federally approved. New noise rules and airport access restrictions must be evaluated and proposed to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulates airspace, aircraft, pilots, airports, flight procedures and aircraft noise. The information below briefly describes their authority.
Airspace and Aircraft Activity
The Middleton Airport has no jurisdiction over aircraft activity, flight procedures, or aircraft noise regulations. Further, according to federal regulations, no individual may claim ownership of airspace over his or her property.
Airspace is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration. Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) are employed by the U.S. government, or by private companies that are contracted by the U.S. government, with a responsibility for safe and efficient movement of aircraft on the ground and in the air. They use established standard operating procedures and a systematic flow to keep aircraft at safe distances from one another.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) shares information on its website about ongoing efforts to manage aircraft noise (link is external), and members of the public may contact the FAA Aviation Noise Ombudsman for more detailed information about its programs: FAA Ombudsman.
The Airport has implemented voluntary noise abatement procedures to recommend specific routes and altitudes for departing aircraft. To that end a published Pilot Handbook for all airport users provides guidance on safe altitudes, pattern altitudes, and the specific instructions regarding the noise abatement program.
In addition, Middleton publishes a voluntary noise abatement program that encourages pilots to assist in reducing noise above populated areas as possible based on air traffic, weather, or other navigational requirements.
Staff can answer questions, provide data, and help residents understand aircraft operations. Aircraft noise and flight activity complaints are used in conjunction with flight tracking data to corroborate specific events or identify possible trends.
It is important to know that aircraft noise complaints alone cannot change how the airport operates. Where aircraft fly, as well as their associated noise levels, depends on factors such as wind and weather, the number of arrivals and departures, the time of day, construction activity, and other conditions, all of which play a part in how an airport operates at any given time.
Arriving aircraft operate under two rules. Visual or instrument flight rules accommodate the pilots rating or weather conditions. Airplanes arriving at our airport can approach from 4 different directions. These rules regulate positions relative to the runway. For example, a long straight-in approach path, known as a final approach is based on Instrument Flight Rules, while approaching the runway from the left and making a series of left turns to align with the runway are under Visual Flight Rules.
A pilot can freely select his or her route and altitude with no restrictions other than those flight rules establishing minimum altitudes for flights over populated residential areas and required separation distances from clouds, terrain, and other aircraft.
Weather plays a major role in aircraft operations, as aircraft land and takeoff into the wind. Depending on wind direction and velocity, alternate flight paths may be utilized. Staff frequently receive questions from residents who notice noise over their neighborhood on specific dates or times, this is because weather pattern changes.
Cloud coverage also impacts noise perception. On cloudy days, noise can seem louder as it is generated from the aircraft and rebounds to the surface of the earth from the bottom of the clouds. In warm weather, aircraft climb more slowly, making operations louder on the ground. On days with high wind speed, aircraft noise can be carried to farther distances at ground level.
The Federal Aviation Regulation states that, except when necessary for departure or landing, the minimum altitude over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle and of 500 feet above the surface over open water or sparsely populated areas.
Local and state authorities do not have jurisdiction over airspace regulations and, therefore, cannot mandate that aircraft and/or helicopters fly at higher altitudes.
Aircraft operating under visual flight rules outside or beneath the FAA controlled airspace are not required to use Air Traffic Control's services and can fly unrestricted. A pilot can freely select his or her route and altitude with no restrictions other than those flight rules establishing minimum altitudes for flights over populated residential areas and required separation distances from clouds, terrain, and other aircraft.
The FAA prevents airports from setting specific hours for flight operations.