John and Sheri Meyer have lived in Redmond near City Hall for a decade. They say their quality of life has dropped in the past year due to increased plane noise in their neighborhood, and they’re considering moving because of the cacophony.
“The noise is the straw on the camel’s back,” John Meyer said.
“I sit here during the day and I have to plug my ears, it is so loud,” Sheri Meyer added.
The couple aren’t the only ones who are upset about airplane noise. According to Zachary Bass, director of the Redmond Airport, noise complaints from Redmond residents have increased about 500% in the past year, from about five per year to more than 30 in the past year. And about 88% of those complaints come from Eagle Crest Resort, located a few miles west of Redmond’s city limits.
Bass said there are two main reasons for more noise: a radio signal near Eagle Crest where aircraft await clearance to land at one of Central Oregon’s airports and increased traffic in the skies.
“It’s the same conversation we’re having throughout the whole region, about growth, expansion,” he said. “What this allows us to do is add more flights. We understand that there’s going to be some downsides to that, and unfortunately, planes are noisy.”
Takeoffs and landings at the Redmond Airport have doubled in the past two years, from 50,000 per year to about 100,000, Bass said. This is partly due to the airport adding more passenger flights, but those only make up 20% of the operations at Redmond Airport. A bigger factor is the Hillsboro Aero Academy flight school, which began training pilots in November 2017, according to Bass.
There are about 375 flight school students throughout Central Oregon at any time, he said, much more than similar midsized regions like Eugene or Medford. Although not every flight school is based in Redmond — the Bend Municipal Airport also has a flight school, Leading Edge Aviation — Redmond Airport is the only place where students can practice certain techniques such as landing using instrument landing systems, which are used when pilots can’t visually see the runway, he said.
The reason for airplane noise above Eagle Crest isn’t the airport itself, which is 8 miles away from the resort. Just west of Eagle Crest is Central Oregon’s only aircraft radio tower, which is operated by the Federal Aviation Administration, according to Bass.
When pilots are waiting for space on landing strips at any of the region’s six airports — Redmond, Bend, Madras, Prineville, Sisters and Sunriver — they taxi their aircraft in the sky around the radio tower, meaning there are constantly planes circling around Eagle Crest. Even the flight school, which the Redmond Airport asks to keep its pilots east of U.S. Highway 97 whenever possible, has to use the radio tower for certain activities, Bass said.
Because the tower is outside of a 5-mile radius in the Redmond Airport’s control, staff can’t do much to mitigate noise near Eagle Crest, according to Bass. But he said airport staff do their best to visit the resort’s residents in person, tell them about the plane noise and explain why it happens.
“The airport’s doing its best to mitigate (noise) as much as possible, but as we all know, airplanes are noisy,” he said. “And we’re located within a mile or two within downtown. The airport can do what we can, but a lot of things are out of our control.”
Eagle Crest and Redmond residents had mixed reactions to the airplane noise. Some, like Tince Timm, who has lived in Eagle Crest for 13 years, said he doesn’t mind the airplanes flying overhead.
“It’s a part of life; it’s not concerning to me at all,” he said.
Fellow Eagle Crest resident Gillian Burton, who’s lived at the resort for 19 years, called the constant noise “disturbing.” She said she hopes that the Redmond Airport would consider a noise curfew, like at Sydney Airport in Australia, where planes don’t take off or land between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. “If they could avoid the nighttime hours (and) red-eye flights, that would be infinitely better,” she said.
Kenny Brooks, who lives next door to the Meyers in central Redmond, said he’s noticed the increased amount of air traffic overhead. But he said he’s not sure what could be done to reduce the noise.
“What can you do about a noisy airplane — put mufflers on it?” he joked.
— Reporter: 541-617-7854, email@example.com