Opinion: Light Aircraft Noise Pollution From Sault College Aviation Program

I have lived on a farm on Leigh’s Bay road in the rural west end of the city for over 20 years. In that time I have witnessed the growth of the Sault College Aviation Program from a few planes to a fleet of 14. Years ago the plane noise was bothersome but tolerable. While working in our strawberries I remember the college planes practicing their stalls over our fields sometimes sending us running for our lives. Although the program coordinator at the college found this humorous, we were able to have a dialogue and put an end to the practice.  However, those days of being able to have a dialogue with the college are long since gone. I suppose the community members complaining about the noisy aircraft are now just a nuisance.

Before I go any further you should know that I believe and understand the importance of The Sault College Flight Training Program. The college and staff should be commended for building a world class training program. This course has had huge financial benefits for the college, the community and the ongoing viability of our airport. They have the formula for success almost complete; what’s missing is the community impact equation.

I believe that no one’s life should be blighted by this incisive air craft noise.

The health impacts of noise pollution from aviation have typically been under-reported despite affecting communities close to airports and those that live under the flight paths. Many residents moved into their homes before airports were operating at the scale they are today, while widespread changes to flight paths have led to many experiencing noise problems for the first time.

As farmers, our fields are our office and we are no longer able to enjoy our gardens or concentrate on our work. Can you imagine trying to work with 50 – 70 decibels of noise above your head? Most of our business decisions are made in the field. The constant aircraft noise overhead has affected my health and my well being. Just being out on the deck or in the yard we must regularly stop our conversation until they have flown over. Weekends and long weekends are especially bad; a time when we enjoy family and friends visiting. I know it’s bad here; I just can’t image how annoying the situation is along Sunnyside Beach, Gros Cap or Point Louise.

I believe the main issue it’s that Sault College planes operating from the Sault Area Airport tend to be old and have older engines, which are noisier compared to newer ones. They might be refurbished but they are still old and loud. These planes are the noisiest in the air over the Sault with the exception of the odd helicopter. On many clear bright days, the noise is loud and persistent throughout the day substantially affecting the relaxation and enjoyment of being outdoors.

From my perspective I also find it very disappointing that apparently very little has been done to mitigate the noise from the source. I know I’m not the only person complaining so what happens to all our complaints? This non-shell-ant attitude by the college and the airport towards the people complaining in our community doesn’t fly anymore!

We deserve to see greater transparency with the local authorities being able to hold the airport manager, Sault College and pilots accountable for reducing the noise impacts above our city. And yes I said pilots because they are greatly responsible too. They should be aware of the hostile exposures they inflict on the community. Flying circles over people’s homes in the rural Soo and cottages North and East of the city is just disrespectful. The picture below shows them circling over the community of Gros Cap early this morning when they have 82,103 km2 of uninhabited Lake Superior right outside their window.

Wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect that Sault College would buy newer quieter panes or upgrade the older engines with silencing technology? i.e. A muffler?

The college should be engaging with our community leaders by taking the lead in the planning and corrective environmental procedures that will only benefit the future of this ever expanding program.

The Sault Ste. Marie Airport also needs to step-up and focus on becoming a good neighbour by creating and enforcing noise abatement procedures and other noise control measures effectively. For example; the current flight path for small planes passes directly over R.M. Moore Public School on Base Line.  Aircraft noise can impact memory and learning in children, and disturb sleep and cause serious long term health problems in adults including cardiovascular disease.

The intensification of the use of current flights paths is a significant factor in explaining community annoyance. A more dispersed approach especially over uninhabited areas would decrease the number of people being over-flown.  At least until the underlying issues with the planes are dealt with. I have suggested flying directly up the river and over Algoma Steel and on through the city. I’ve also suggested heading North past 5 line and headed east from there. Both these areas are relatively uninhabited. Both these suggestion have fallen on deaf ears as far as I can tell. Once again nobody has got back to me

I am calling on local representatives, councilors, our mayor, Sault Collage and airport management to initiate a campaign calling for action to address this noise issue.

If community members affected by this noise do not stand up now the noise will inevitably multiply as the college continues to expand the program.

If you are affected by the aircraft noise please take the time to sign the attached petition and I will present it to all the stakeholders. Hopefully together we can make our community a quieter place to work and enjoy.


Sincerely Jim Grisdale

2 thoughts on “Opinion: Light Aircraft Noise Pollution From Sault College Aviation Program

  1. Would you like a little cheese with that whine? Things change for the worse, when they do people change locations if it bothers them that much.

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