Aircraft Noise Information



importance of santa fe municipal airport

Established in 1941, Santa Fe Municipal airport is a critical air transportation hub and economic engine for our community - the airport supports over 680 fulltime jobs and generates an economic impact of $78 million annually.  The airport is the second busiest in the state with 150,000 passengers and 65,000 flight operations per year, 181 based aircraft, 20 commercial businesses, and 5 federal and state agencies that provide aerial safety and rescue services.

aircraft noise and regulatory authority

Like any transportation hub or network, such as railway stations, bus depots, and interstate highways, there is associated noise generated by aircraft operating to and from the airport.  The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has the sole authority to regulate airspace use, management, air traffic control, safety, and the regulation of aircraft noise at its source.

Responsibility for the oversight and implementation of aviation laws and programs is delegated to the FAA under the Federal Aviation Act of 1958. The FAA has exercised this authority by promulgating wide-ranging and comprehensive federal regulations on the use of navigable airspace and air traffic control. The federal government, through this exercise of its constitutional and statutory powers, has preempted the areas of airspace use and management, air traffic control and aviation safety.

Under the legal doctrine of federal preemption, which flows from the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, state and local authorities do not generally have legal power to act in an area that already is subject to comprehensive federal regulation. Because of the increasing public concern about aircraft noise that accompanied the introduction of turbojet powered aircraft in the 1960s and the constraints such concern posed for the continuing development of civil aeronautics and the air transportation system of the United States, the federal government in 1968 sought, and Congress granted, broad authority to regulate aircraft for the purpose of noise abatement.

State and local government authority to regulate aircraft noise primarily extends to land use restrictions, airport infrastructure improvements, and aircraft noise abatement procedures that do not impede the federal interest in safety and management of the air navigation system or unreasonably interfere with interstate or foreign commerce.

Standards for aircraft noise levels

The Day-Night Average Sound Level (DNL) has been identified by the Federal Aviation Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development as the principal metric for airport noise.  DNL is a 24-hour equivalant sound level in decibels that is calculated by measuring sound levels for each aircraft operation (landing or takeoff), adding a penalty for night time operations, and then totaled to determine average sound levels.      

The FAA has determined through studies that individual noise complaints are generally not statistically valid indicators or measurements of a noise problem. While complaints may be a valid indication of individual annoyance, they do not accurately measure community annoyance.  Reactions of individuals to a particular level of noise may vary widely, while community annoyance correlates well with particular noise exposure levels. As the FAA stated in a 1994 report to Congress on aircraft noise, “The attitudes of people are actually more important in determining their reactions to noise than the noise exposure level.” Attitudes that affect an individual’s reactions to noise may include apprehension regarding their safety because of the noise emitter, the belief that the noise is preventable, or a general sensitivity to noise.

The resultant variability makes it essentially impossible to predict with any accuracy how any one individual will respond to a given noise. However, when communities are considered as a whole, reliable relationships are found between reported annoyance and noise exposure. This relationship between community annoyance and noise exposure levels “remains the best available source of predicting the social impact of noise on communities around airports” (FAA Report to Congress, 1994).

In 1979, Congress enacted the Aviation Safety and Noise Abatement Act (ASNA). In ASNA, Congress directed the FAA to: (1) establish a single system of noise measurement to be uniformly applied in measuring noise at airports and in surrounding areas for which there is a highly reliable relationship between projected noise and surveyed reactions of people to noise; (2) establish a single system for determining the exposure of individuals to noise from airport operations; and (3) identify land uses that are normally compatible with various exposures of individuals to noise.

FAA promulgated 14 CFR Part 150 to implement ASNA and established the “day-night average sound level” (DNL) as the noise metric for determining the exposure of individuals to aircraft noise. It identifies residential land uses as being normally compatible with noise levels below DNL 65 decibels (dB).  For reference, conversational speech is approximately 60 decibels, a household dishwasher is 70 decibels, and a truck traveling 40 MPH is 80 decibels.  

aircraft Noise exposure at santa fe municipal airport

Santa Fe Municipal Airport commissioned a comprehensive noise study in 2008 to measure the actual aircraft noise levels, produce noise exposure maps, and ensure the airport is in compliance with all federal noise regulations.  The study showed aircraft noise levels of 65 DNL and above are entirely contained on airport property and in compliance with all federal regulatory requirements.  The noise exposure map (click here) was updated in 2015 revealing the 65 DNL countour is still fully contained on airport property and aircraft noise levels have decreased from 2008. These reductions are primarily due to aircraft design improvements mandated by the FAA, the decline in aircraft operations at Santa Fe Municipal Airport, and noise reduction measures the airport has implemented.

what we are doing to further reduce aircraft noise

Although the airport is in compliance with all federal regulations, we are committed to further reducing noise impacts. The airport has a voluntary noise abatement program that identifies residential and noise sensitive areas around the airport, recommends arrival and departure procedures, and sets quiet hours.    

what you can do

Be aware of areas impacted by aircraft noise. If you are sensitive to aircraft noise, the best way to avoid or limit its impact is to live in an area that is not typically subjected to aircraft noise.  Most of the aircraft activity that produces noticeable noise is significantly limited to areas immediately adjacent to the airport and the arrival/departure corridors.  If you are unfamiliar with the airport’s location or the arrival/departure corridors, the airport administration can help.

Improve the noise insulation and sound masking qualities of your property. In the absence of effective sound barriers, sound can travel from the edge of your property to the interior of your home.  Installing sound absorbing materials, both outside and indoors, can significantly reduce noise and its impact.  A few examples include:

  • Adding vegetation, fencing/walls, and berms to the outside of your property can to help block or absorb the noise before it has the opportunity to enter your home. The Georgia Forestry Commission (click here) has a good primer on the various techniques.
  • Adding sound insulation to walls, attics, and vents, reconditioning or replacing existing single-pane windows and doors with dual-pane windows and doors, installing acoustical storm windows and doors, and weather stripping your home can significantly reduce noise in your home. The Metropolitan Airports Commission (click here) has a detailed guide for insulating your home against aircraft noise.
  • Adding pleasant “white noise”, such as water features, chimes, fans, air conditioners and other devices, can help to mask some of the noise that does find its way onto your property and into your home.

Get involved with aviation.  Sensitivity to noise can be exacerbated by the attitude towards the noise emitter.  Since the beginning of human history, people have looked to the sky and longed to be there with the soaring eagles.  However, it took millennia for humans to unlock the mysteries of flight – the first flight occurred just over a hundred years ago on December 17, 1903.   And, although we now thoroughly understand the science of flight, the magic of taking to the air remains.  Discovering both the science and magic of flight can change aircraft noise from an annoyance to a profound wonder.  The local flight schools at Santa Fe Municipal Airport provide very low-cost introductory flights.  They can be contacted here:

File a noise complaint:  You may file an aircraft noise compliant by eamiling the following agencies:

Please ensure provide the following information when available:

  • Your name and contact information - including street address
  • Where the aircraft noise occurred - street address prefered 
  • When the aircraft noise occurred - time and date
  • What type of aircraft - propeller, jet, or helicopter
  • Any aircraft identifying markings - color, number of engines, aircraft tail number
  • The specific complaint - aircraft noise, low flying aircraft 






  • Member of Creative Cities
    Network since 2005