Aircraft noise complaints at Pax River drop -- Gazette.Net


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Hearing aircraft noise is part of living next to a naval air station, and complaints about that noise have dropped substantially in the last five years.

But it turns out that when complaints are filed, not all of the noise reported comes from Patuxent River Naval Air Station, a Navy official said Tuesday.

So far this year, there have been 33 noise complaints around Pax River, Chris Jarboe, team lead of the NAVAIR Ranges Sustainability Office, said at a joint meeting of Navy officials and the St. Mary’s County commissioners.

Of those calls, 15 were identified as aircraft from Pax River, 16 from elsewhere and two were unknown.

In 2009, there were 98 noise complaints and by 2012, the number was down to 35, Jarboe said.

He said seven of the complaints that were tied to Pax River so far this year originated from subsonic fixed-wing aircraft, one by an unmanned aerial vehicle, two from other Pax River aircraft where the squadron couldn’t be identified and the rest were helicopters from the Navy base.

“Most of the complaints are in St. Mary’s and southern Calvert,” Jarboe said. Some complaints come from Maryland’s Eastern Shore or the Northern Neck of Virginia.

Asked if installations compare noise complaints, Jarboe said no, but he did say that Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia receives a lot of complaints.

“It is a necessary impact to keep our aviators qualified,” Capt. Benjamin Shevchuk, commanding officer of Patuxent River, said of the flights that may cause noise.

Sometimes atmospheric conditions can cause louder-than-expected sounds, he said. “Sometimes it’s the wind” and the direction it carries sound.

He noted that there have even been complaints that the national anthem played at Pax River is too loud. There is no volume button controlling that, he said.

“Pax River works hard to be a good neighbor, and we spend a lot of time working on mitigating potential noise sources,” Gary Younger, a public affairs officer at Patuxent River, said this week. “We also coordinate with other agencies that may work in the area to reduce the impact on surrounding communities,” he said.

“It does seem to be very few complaints over time,” said Robin Finnacom, acting director of the St. Mary’s County Department of Economic and Community Development.

“The community’s been very forgiving of us and tolerant,” Jarboe said.

The Joint Strike Fighter will be moving into more supersonic tests in the near future, he said.

Hotline handles noise complaints

Patuxent River Naval Air Station makes announcements about activities expected to be noisy at www.facebook.com/naspaxriver, on the St. Mary’s County government Facebook page and through local media in Southern Maryland, the Eastern Shore and the Northern Neck of Virginia. Noise complaints can be called into a hotline at 1-866-819-9028 or sent by email to paxnoise@navy.mil.

Pax River informed the community on Sept. 9 there would be increased noise levels until early November in the areas of California, Solomons and the Cedar Cove neighborhood in Lexington Park as a result of runway work causing different flight patterns.

jbabcock@somdnews.com