Oregon's Air National Guard wants to practice a new way of flying into Portland International Airport.
It involves F-15s dropping down quickly in a circular pattern – the kind of battle landing that's needed when under fire.
The Airports' Citizen's Noise Advisory Committee has given the maneuver the go ahead. But that's got some people saying the committee has become little more than a rubber stamp for the port. Kristian Foden-Vencil reports.
Over the years, the Citizen's Noise Advisory Committee or CNAC has dramatically cut the amount of noise around the airport.
It helped get special satellite technology installed – so planes can fly in a quieter path along the river. It's also helped get a $7 million hush-house built. A hush-house is a hanger where engines can be tested without blasting the neighborhood with a wall of sound.
Erwin Bergman: "That's probably a 757 Northwest Airlines, just descending slowly."
Erwin Bergman stands at the end of the southern runway at PDX. He lives just down the street from here and was on the CNAC for years. He helped get the hush-house built. But last year, he gave up his seat.
Erwin Bergman: "I got frustrated. I didn't want to be a perpetual student not accomplishing something. I felt it was a waste of my time."
He says that over the last few years the committee has changed from a group focused on cutting down noise to a rubber stamp for the Port of Portland, which oversees the airport.
Erwin Bergman: "It seems that there are more and more people on CNAC that have an intimate relationship with aviation. They're pilots or family members are pilots. And so in their action there is a clear bias towards aviation."
There are 15 seats on the CNAC. Two are empty.
But the Port says four are occupied by pilots -- one commercial pilot and three pilots of private planes.
Bergman says a fifth seat is occupied by a woman's whose husband is a commercial pilot. That doesn't seem right and what's more, the Port requires that some committee members represent counties that are far from the airport.
Erwin Bergman: "Folks in Washington County or Clackamas County I mean let's face it, it's not their prime interest and concern. It's just like I don't really care about the train on the Westside blowing the whistle. You know, it's not in my area."
Around the airport fence from Bergman's house lives Maryhelen Kincaid, who moved into the area six years ago.
Maryhelen Kincaid: "So I see jet traffic, I see cargo hauler traffic. I see light jet traffic. We see everything."
Kincaid is the chairwoman of the Citizens Noise Advisory Committee, but she's not that worried about airport noise.
Maryhelen Kincaid: "It doesn't bother me as much as it does some other people, because I've grown accustomed to it. I'm much more irritated by loud stereos or mufflers or that kind of thing."
She says having four pilots on the committee is not a problem.
Maryhelen Kincaid: "I believe that the pilots bring a skill set in the recognition of where planes fly and what they can and cannot do in regard to noise impacts. …As far as being sympathetic to noise, several of them live in impacted neighborhoods."
The vice-chair of the Citizen's Noise Advisory Committee is Steve Kerman. He has a private pilot's license.
Steve Kerman: "Having pilots on the committee really isn't the fox in the chicken house. It's more a question of an intelligent, educated approach to aircraft, aircraft procedures and aircraft noise. We're really a step or two ahead of the non-pilot members of the committee in that we understand more about the issue."
In the interests of full disclosure, Kerman is a part-time employee at OPB and has contributed to the station.
While it's undoubtedly true that a pilot like Kerman can bring a technological understanding of sound, some question whether the noise committee needs four pilots?
Christopher Corich: "To me it's not counter intuitive to have people interested in what they're doing serving on this committee.
Christopher Corich is the noise manager for the Port of Portland.
Christopher Corich: "It's like people that serve on a parks board probably like parks. The idea that pilots are some how not capable of worrying about noise is very counter intuitive to me."
Other noise committees do things differently.
Paul Van Orden for example, is the noise control officer at the City of Portland. He works with a committee that handles complaints about everything from road races to parties.
His philosophy for the make-up of a noise committee is to pick people who are concerned about noise -- not noise experts.
It's a model, he thinks, the Port of Portland might consider.
Paul Van Orden: "So I would actually almost say that it might be a good thing to look at a way to get that back to a balance where it's more citizens involved in the committee and not folks who someone might say have an interest."
At San Francisco Airport, the noise committee is made up of politicians and only meets every other month. Compared to PDX and Sea-Tac, it had the most complaints at 77-hundred last year.
At Sea-Tac there is no permanent noise advisory committee. Instead, three neighborhood groups are constantly battling the airport. Sea-Tac received about 1900 noise complaints last year.
PDX had the least number of complaints in 2008 -- at 560.
The relationship between the Citizens Noise Advisory Committee and the airport hasn't always been as amicable as it is nowadays. Ten years ago the Port introduced a new flight-test procedure that proved highly controversial. There was a big bust-up and the result was that the Port dissolved the old Noise Advisory Committee.
It used to be open to anyone.
But the new CNAC now has representatives nominated by the various cities and counties around the Metro area.
Corich says the idea was to formalize membership.
But while that change resulted in a much calmer relationship between the Port and the surrounding communities, some say it turned CNAC into a group focused on airports and flying rather than noise reduction.
Airport noise manager, Chris Corich, says that was not their goal -- and to his knowledge he says, they've never turned anybody away who wanted to join.
Christopher Corich: "So if there's somebody out there that hears this story that's concerned about aircraft noise. Give us a call. We'll either fix you up with a jurisdiction if it's a jurisdictional opening or we'll perhaps use you as one of the Port openings."
Still some neighbors are fuming about the new type of F-15 landings -- particularly in the Cully area, where the neighborhood association voted against the whole idea.
Noise Committee members say it's true that noise will increase slightly in Cully. But, they say, it'll get quieter in other areas -- so overall, they're doing their job.