Sunday, December 09, 2001

Diversions account for most complaints

Flight deviations blamed on weather, safety concerns

By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HEBRON — When the last new runway at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport became operational, a phone line was set up for complaints or comments from area residents about noise or errant flights.

        More than 99 percent of the complaints were about flights that deviated for weather or safety concerns, airport noise abatement manager Barb Schempf says.

        “But we do track all the calls and try to get a response to each one,” Ms. Schempf says.

        Between 1991 and 2000, the line registered 27,856 calls, with the high of 5,709 coming in 1992 — the second year after the opening of the last runway to be built.

        That compares with a low of 1,384 in 2000 and 1,435 recorded through September this year.

        Ms. Schempf points out that 1,845 out of 3,444 calls made in 1998 were made by one caller. Airport officials would not disclose the person who made those calls, because of privacy concerns, but say repeat callers make the majority of complaints. As recently as September, the line registered 83 out of 140 calls from a single resident.

        Despite this, Ms. Schempf says every complaint is checked against the air traffic logs and a computer system that tracks flights, times and the runway used — normally on a three-day delay. If a discrepancy is found, a letter is sent to the control tower and corresponding airline to find out what happened.

        Randy Brindley, vice chairman of the local branch of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, says that any time standard procedures are not followed, it must be logged and a reason given.

        Sometimes, a complaint comes in that was the fault of a pilot or an air traffic controller that did not have a legitimate reason to violate standard procedure.

        But Ms. Schempf says that has happened only twice in 2001, and while the airport has no way to enforce the rules, officials with both airlines and at the control tower say there are repercussions.

        “We take it very seriously,” says Comair's manager of flight standards, Michael Piper. “So in the rare occasions it happens, we really work on retraining, and sometimes it means better communication with our pilots.”

       To complain about airplane noise, call in the time and location of the particular flight to (859) 767-7020; fax it to (859) 767-4818; or e-mail it to


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