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NAC - Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What can the airport do to restrict noisy planes?

The Cuyahoga County Airport conducts public meetings of the Noise Abatement Council on a quarterly basis. The Council is composed of representatives of the airport administration, the airport tenant’s flight departments, air traffic control tower, and representatives of the communities of Richmond Heights, Highland Heights, and Willoughby Hills. The purpose of the NAC is to provide a forum for the discussion and analysis of aircraft noise issues, identifying solutions and entertaining suggested recommendations for consideration of policies. Safety is always the #1 priority.

Q: What is the County Airport doing to decrease noise over residential areas?

The County has revitalized the Noise Abatement Council to help minimize noise impact to the greatest extent possible, over residential areas. The NAC has developed a voluntary noise abatement program that includes publication of the program to the pilot community, prominent signage at various locations on airport grounds and in pilot lounges, and the development of procedures for pilots. This approach was developed collectively between airport users, administrators, civic representatives, and the surrounding public in an attempt to provide consistent operating procedures for the airport users that should lessen the impact from aircraft noise.

Q: What are the rules regarding how low an aircraft can fly over a residential area?
Is there a legal minimum altitude that airplanes can fly over residential areas?

A: Aircraft altitude is established by the Code of Federal Regulations Title 14, Section 91.119. Aircraft are required to fly a minimum altitude of 1000 feet above ground level over congested areas and a minimum of 500 feet over non-congested areas. It is important to be aware of two aspects of this regulation.

  • Aircraft operating in the vicinity of the County Airport are in the process of landing or taking off. In these cases, this regulation does not apply.
  • Helicopters are exempt from this federal regulation. Helicopters are not subject to minimum altitude restrictions provided the operation of the helicopter is conducted safely.

Q: Who can do something about low-flying planes? My concern really isn't noise; it's safety. Who should I contact?

A: Specific safety comments should be filed with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Flight Standards District Office at (440) 686-2001. This office investigates low-flying or potentially unsafe flight incidents.

Q: Why doesn't the County Airport or Airports in Northeast Ohio have curfews or rules similar to those at other airports such as Scottsdale, Burbank, and Orange County Airport?

In 1990, Congress passed the Airport Noise and Capacity Act that made it extremely difficult for airports to initiate curfews or other noise and access restrictions. Airports having restrictions already in place prior to the Act becoming law were allowed to remain in effect. By definition a public use airport may not discriminate with respect to periods of operation as a private airport can.

Q: What happens when I call in, write, or email a noise complaint?

A: We encourage the pubic to send noise complaints via email to, call
(216) 289-4111 or send correspondence by mail to 26300 Curtiss Wright Parkway, Richmond Heights,
Ohio 44143.

All noise complaints will be logged, however, in order for the noise complaint to be researched they must
be submitted within 72 hours of the event. Once a compliant is received, the local municipality will be
notified that we are in receipt of a complaint. Airport research will begin immediately and a written
response will be sent upon the conclusion of the research to both the resident and local municipality.

Should the findings conclude an aircraft operated during the hours of the noise abatement, we will send a
letter notifying the operator of the complaint and remind them of the voluntary noise abatement program.

Q: How busy is the airport? How is the level of activity at the airport measured?

A: According to the FAA, activity is measured in terms of  “operations.” An operation is defined as one takeoff, one landing, or an aircraft flying through Cuyahoga County’s airspace, as defined by the FAA.

Year 2008
 2009  2010 2011
Operations  39,143 34,165  43,104  34,136

Q: What are the airport's hours of operation?

A: The federal government mandates that the County Airport is open to the public 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, on a non-discriminatory basis. However, the FAA air traffic control tower is open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. When the tower is closed, the airport operates as an “uncontrolled” airport, at which pilots are responsible for communicating directly with each other on a common traffic advisory frequency within the confines of Cuyahoga County Airport airspace.

Q: Why do airplanes take off and land in a particular direction?

A: The Cuyahoga County Airport has only one runway that is oriented southwest to northeast. Pilots typically take off and land into the wind to increase lift and promote safer aircraft operations. Generally, the predominant wind direction for Cuyahoga County Airport is out of the west or southwest. The airport’s runway alignment that favors the safest operation in that case is heading towards the southwest. However, if the winds on a particular day are out of the North or East, then the runway is used in the opposite direction, oriented to the northeast.

Q: What more can the airport do to keep airplanes from flying over my neighborhood?

A: Air Traffic Controls primary function is to prevent collision between aircraft, to organize and expedite the flow of traffic and to provide support for National Security. In addition to its primary function, the ATC system has the capability to provide (with certain limitations) additional services. The ability to provide additional services can be limited by many factors such as traffic volume, frequency congestion and controller workload. Consistent with the aforementioned conditions, controllers provide additional services (including the enforcement of noise abatement procedures) to the extent permitted by higher priority duties. The Air Traffic Controllers at Cuyahoga County are aware of the noise abatement procedures and adhere to them, provided separation is not compromised. Note that separation standards and safety are paramount over all other concerns.

Q: Is it true that flight paths were designed to not fly over certain houses or areas?

A: No one house or neighborhood is exempt from flight paths. However, procedures are designed to
lessen the impact from noise in all areas surrounding the airport.

Q: What are the future plans for the Cuyahoga County Airport? How big will the airport grow?

A: The County Airport is comprised of approximately 660 acres of land. The proposed Airport Master Plan (2010) under review by the FAA calls for the realignment of the perimeter fence along Richmond Road, installation of EMAS (engineered materials arresting system), converting the over-run into useable runway; which will allow us to maximize our runway length to 5500 feet for takeoff and remain within the existing confines of the airport. More importantly to the residents of the surrounding communities, this means no road relocation for Bishop or Richmond Road. There are currently no plans to extend the runway to 6000 feet.
For more information on the Airport Master Plan, visit the website. 

Q: Will a commercial airline ever serve Cuyahoga County Airport in the future?

A: Cleveland Hopkins International Airport is the primary commercial service airport, serving Northeast
Ohio. The Cuyahoga County Airport serves in the capacity of a satellite reliever airport to Cleveland Hopkins Airport. In its present form, County Airport is unable to accommodate large commercial airplanes. Only in the event of an emergency would a large commercial jet land here.

Q: Can the Airport fine "problem" pilots? Can the Airport prevent them from using the airport?

A: Since the County’s Airport Noise Abatement Program is voluntary; the County cannot fine or prohibit a pilot from flying into and out of the airport. Except for an exception for safety reasons, pilots are expected to comply with the noise abatement procedures. Although compliance is not mandatory, if the pilot violates FAA regulations, the FAA’s Flight Standards District Office can become involved and would be the authority responsible for enforcing rules through violations, education, or if necessary, revoking or suspending a pilot’s licenses based on circumstances. Regardless, noise abatement is not a rule but rather a recommended practice.

Q: Why can’t aircraft be diverted away from where I live so that they don’t fly over my house?

A: The airspace and or flight paths are not restrictive with regard to geography with the exception of
ground based obstructions and the limitations of instrument landing procedures. The Air Traffic Control
Tower manages the aircraft in the Cuyahoga County airspace at and around the airport within 4 miles up
to 3400 feet. No specific geographical area within the Cuyahoga County airspace is restricted.

Q: Why can’t the Airport Administration limit the kinds of airplanes that fly into and out of County Airport? Why can’t it limit the times when aircraft can land and take off from the airport?

A: The County Airport is a tax funded airport and it receives federal and state grant funds to construct capital improvements at the Airport. It is required to remain open 24 hours per day, 7 days per week for any and all types of aircraft that choose to fly into and out of the facility.

Q: Why does the airport need the federal and state grant funds?

A: Most capital improvements at the airport are costly. The County is not in a position to fund these improvements itself and must therefore seek financial assistance from the FAA and the State of Ohio to design and construct improvements that are often necessary to maintain safe operations.

Q: How does the weather and season affect aircraft noise?

Residents will notice an increase in aircraft noise during warmer months when outdoor activities are more prevalent. During periods of warmer temperatures an aircraft’s ability to climb in altitude greatly decreases, directly increasing the duration of time the aircraft travels at lower altitudes. To counter this effect, increased power settings are required to achieve normal climb rates. Also, a low layer of cloud cover holds noise closer to the ground. As air density increases and the air is cooler and dryer, the air molecules are closer together resulting in better sound conduction. These scientific factors can make sound travel better, longer, and even appear louder.

Q: When does an aircraft make the most noise?

A: Most noise complaints originate from aircraft operations during the initial phases of take-off or the
final phases of landing. Since individuals have a wide range of sensitivity to noise, the extent of noise
impact varies greatly among individuals. The perceived noise level on the ground can vary widely, based
on a number of factors. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Aircraft type and size. Larger aircraft tend to be louder than smaller aircraft. Jets are generally louder than planes powered by propellers, but this is also because jets are generally larger than propeller powered airplanes.
  • Aircraft load. Weight loads affect noise levels. Heavier loaded aircraft generally ascend at a slower rate, increasing the noise exposure to residences near the airport.
  • Weather. Weather can affect noise levels. Dense and low cloud cover may reflect noise back to the ground, producing an "echo" effect, which may intensify noise levels. Time of Day. Aircraft operations during nighttime or early morning hours may have a greater noise impact due to the time of day. People are often more sensitive to noise during normal “sleeping” hours.
  • The same noise level and operation may actually seem worse during these hours due to this increased sensitivity. Aircraft noise may also appear to be louder because of the absence of other sounds heard throughout the day from things such as automobiles, trucks, motorcycles, lawn mowers, televisions, and - music.
  •  Season. Aircraft noise is often a greater nuisance during seasons when residents have their doors and windows open. During the summer and winter months, windows are closed and limit the exposure to outside noise sources. During the spring and fall, when temperatures are more moderate, residents often have the doors and windows of their home open. During these times, people may be more sensitive to outside noise.
  •  Human Factors. Noise affects different people in different ways. Some are simply more sensitive to noise, in general. Different people may be more or less sensitive to certain types or noise sources. Individuals living in the same neighborhood or even within the same home may also have different levels of sensitivity to noise.