I write to express a moderate opinion regarding the current conflict between many county residents and Mile High Skydiving. We live a few miles west of the Vance Brand Airport and plainly hear the excessive and rather continuous noise from the jump planes as they climb at maximum rate, then descends under 75 percent power to expedite their subsequent loads to altitude, often within minutes of each other. It is onerous and unfortunate.
Mile-Hi Skydiving is operating within the limits of a federal law which doesn’t restrict aircraft noise or frequency of operation. The Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) reserves the exclusive control of the skies throughout the U.S., and restricts local control of the airway system so that free, unimpeded air traffic can be unencumbered by a myriad of local regulation. This concept makes sense for air transportation of people and goods between airports.
The logic of this system breaks down, in my opinion, when those FAA regulations are used to allow a very noisy operation such as Mile-Hi Skydiving, to operate from, and back to, the same airport on a continuous basis, climbing and descending over the same areas of the county at full power settings. That doesn’t seem to me to be the intent of the FAA purpose for exclusive control of the airspace.
Tim Barth, the airport manager, has correctly used this argument in the past, stating that he has little control over activities that are regulated by the FAA. However, there have been several instances where local municipalities have successfully enacted noise control regulations at their airports. I believe that the City of Longmont does have the authority, if it so chooses, to control operations at its airport, including limiting excessive noise from planes, their hours and frequency of operation, hangar activities, etc.
The pressures to enact such control seem to come from a small part of the populous, many of whom are not city residents. So, from legislators’ “re-election perspective”, there’s little incentive to respond to complaints. Like me, there are probably many who are offended by the noise, but see little benefit of complaining to the deaf ears of the airport. Although Mile-Hi Skydiving provides little to the city in the way of taxes (it even purchases its own wholesale fuel rather than supporting the newly christened Elite Aviation) its activity does increase the utilization of the airport which probably aids in justifying federal funding.
However, the life of a small airport is fragile. Each year many across the country close due to inactivity, citizen mandate, or development pressures. Vance Brand has, so far, been relatively successful in maintaining a good support base of both the aircraft owners and the citizenry. But most of the airport tenants and pilots (I’m one) do not appreciate Mile-Hi Skydiving’s hazard to flying and their noisy activities. And more and more local citizens don’t either, resulting in deteriorated relations between the airport and the voters. Eventually there may be enough pressure from such sources to encourage a decision from legislators to move or close the airport.
Those feelings are progressing now. Many will tell you how beneficial the skydiving operation is to the airport. But many more will tell you that it is having a far more deleterious effect.
Gary Rubin lives in Longmont.