Loudest Flights at Love Field Aren't Commercial Airliners, Says Research

General aviation and cargo flights, with older engines and far fewer noise restrictions, make up about two-thirds of Love's total flights.

The 10 loudest planes that flew into Dallas Love Field in March were not the commercial jetliners flown by American and Southwest airlines. They were cargo planes, business jets and sports team charters, according to the city's aviation department research obtained by The Dallas Morning News.

General aviation and cargo flights, with older engines and far fewer noise restrictions, make up about two-thirds of Love's total flights. That puts the noise debate - and the tussle over the Wright amendment - in a new light.

Wright amendment backers have made noise the central focus of their campaign, through television ads, direct mailings and door-to-door canvassing.

Any changes to the 26-year-old law that restricts long-haul flights from Love would bring more planes and more noise to neighborhoods, they contend.

"We just don't want Love Field to get any bigger and bring more large jets in there," said Jay Pritchard, executive director of Stop-and-Think, funded by American Airlines Inc. to get residents to oppose changes to the Wright amendment.

But pro-repeal forces say more commercial flights would actually make Love Field quieter by pushing out louder business jets and cargo planes - an assertion backed by the airport's staff. Theoretically, they say, the business jets would seek less congested airports so they wouldn't have to compete with commercial schedules.

"It's consistent with what we've thought all along, that the general aviation planes are to blame for most of the noise," said Anthony Page of Friends of Love Field, a pro-repeal group.

Stop-and-Think, which received $1 million from Fort Worth-based American, is set to hold a news conference today on noise.

According to the city's rankings, some of the planes flown by the group's sponsor are among the 20 loudest during takeoff.

"We realize our planes make noise, and that's in no way beneficial to the neighborhoods around Love," said American spokesman Tim Wagner.

If neighbors realize the trade-off of more noise resulting from more passenger flights at Love, they'll reconsider Southwest's campaign to repeal the Wright law, he said. "They're hearing it 100 times a day, and what would the impact be if it were 300 or 400 times a day?"

Southwest's 120 flights a day dominate Love's passenger side, while American is flying seven MD-80 flights a day split between St. Louis and Kansas City. American also flies quieter regional jets, as does Continental Airlines Inc., the third commercial passenger airline at Love.

Southwest's older planes, Boeing 737-300s, rank No. 11 in terms of approach noise. American's MD-80s come in at No. 22, by the same measure, but are louder than any Southwest aircraft on takeoff.

There are some caveats on the city's noisy-plane list. It measures only the takeoff sound of the engines measured by federal regulators at a distance of one-eighth of a mile from the end of a runway. And it measures approach noise only between 1,000 and 2,000 feet, though the measurement can vary slightly.

The city's list also doesn't account for Southwest's planes that have noise-reducing winglets, and it also may not reflect some modifications to engines.

Most important, it doesn't show how far the loud noise from some jets extends from the airport. According to Boeing Co. and Love Field's own noise research, American's jets have a noise footprint - the area where noise is heard - twice as large as newer Southwest planes. That means American planes are heard longer and farther from the airport.

Southwest's take

The noise issue is overblown by people fronting for American, Southwest Airlines chairman Herb Kelleher said Tuesday.

"There are more households affected by noise from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport than by any noise from Love," Mr. Kelleher said. "Why don't these people take it up with D/FW?"

The list of noisiest planes shows the real culprit isn't commercial planes, Mr. Page said.

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