To the editor:
There were few airplanes over Fort Myers Beach about 15 years ago, but then RSW and the FAA began to change landing approaches putting far more flights over our island. About the same time a huge increase in tourism and flights began. During season we can often find about 150 flights a day in our skies, depending on the winds.
Some relief is on the way. An increasing number of flights are beginning to be higher, the eventual goal is that all flights will be at 3,000 feet on clear visibility days, a big change from the 1600 to 2000 feet we have had.
We benefit in two ways. A higher plane is less noisy anyway. Even more significantly, a higher plane on descent is normally reducing power so is much quieter than planes powering up at low altitudes
We are seeing changes now. More should take place over the next few months as communication to pilots becomes more formalized. Flights are higher as a result of the coordination from RSW and FAA Air Traffic Control management that has finally been sensitive to our plight.
Concurrently, some flights are now avoiding the south end of Fort Myers Beach completely with a new route. This should alleviate some of the problems incurred from residents resulting from an FAA change a few years ago that sent many flights from the north down past RSW, then all the way over Bonita Beach into the Gulf of Mexico and back up to turn over Fort Myers Beach. This new shorter route has been permitted to allow many of these aircraft to turn earlier, before Bonita Beach, and approach RSW over Estero Bay, avoiding Bonita Beach and Fort Myers Beach altogether. This will obviously benefit everyone as it will also reduce the time in the air for passengers and reduce fuel consumption for the airlines as well.
It hasn't been easy over the past 15 years to develop awareness that there needs to be a change ... and even harder to provoke change. We will still have many flights overhead and more will come as tourism increases. When visibility is low, flights will continue to be low. When the second runway is built there will be more changes to flight patterns affecting the southern part of the island. The important difference now is that there seems to be a desire to understand the situation and develop changes to alleviate conditions that have impacted residents so severely.
Fort Myers Beach