Noise assessment on airport requested | News | The Press and Standard

by | May 11, 2017 8:52 am

The Walterboro-Colleton County Airport Commission has a request for an environmental assessment done on aircraft traffic at the Lowcountry Regional Airport on the agenda for Thursday’s meeting.

A letter from Walterboro resident Carol Black seeks an environmental assessment under Federal Aviation Board regulations, accompanied by a petition that Black has been circulating.

Black said the petition contains about 30 signatures from residents primarily in the path of Lowcountry Regional Airport’s runway 5-23, the runway approach that takes aircraft over Walterboro’s Historic District and the North Lemacks Street area.

Black said the petition signees reside on North Lemacks, Gruber, Hampton, Valley, Savage, Church and Wichman streets.

The request seeks an environmental assessment of all three runways at Lowcountry Regional Airport, the largest general aviation airport in South Carolina.

Of primary concern to Black and the petition’s signers is the 5-23 runway, which ends near the intersection of North Lemacks Street and Robertson Boulevard, which sends the aircraft over their residences. It is the airport’s most used runway.

The petition also asks the commission to “investigate alternate flight paths that would require aircraft traffic to avoid flying over heavily populated residential areas (relative to the general population of Walterboro).”

With the on-going effort to market the airport as a location for aviation-related businesses and the county’s plans to expand the size of the airport’s terminal, Black said, impact of the noise on the safety, health and free exercise of religion are going to grow.

“It is going to get worse and worse. Let’s just deal with this problem now, Black said.

comments » 22

  1. Comment by Bishop

    May 11, 2017 at 10:26 am

    wah, wah, wah. Will this women every run out of complaints!!!!!

  2. Comment by Wayne

    May 11, 2017 at 2:30 pm

    All for it, as soon as ms black & co. Put up the funds to cover it. My guess is, the airport has been there much longer than the individuals who have suddenly become concerned about the environment. It never ceases to amaze how a few individuals can continuously stop any business progress in colleton county. So,please, shut down the airport.😠

  3. Comment by Carol Black

    May 11, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    Just to clarify what was not detailed in the article–an “environmental assessment” (a term used by the FAA) relates to the “human environment”–and is not the same as an “environmental impact statement/study” ordered in situations connected to the EPA or other types of physical environmental matters.

  4. Comment by Charlie Brightwell

    May 11, 2017 at 4:43 pm

    If the Walterboro -Colleton County airport is not the most important and valuable asset that we have then it is very close to the top of the list. Because of the length and excellent condition of the runways, the instrument landing capabilities, and the outstanding condition of our airport facilities Walterboro-Colleton County has been able to attract a number of meaningful new business investments to our community. The airport serves a number of property owners who pay substantial property taxes each year. The facility also provides immense opportunity for additional economic growth related to the aviation industry (e.g. Boeing and suppliers for Boeing). This proposal and petition are completely without merit and do not warrant serious consideration.

  5. Comment by Charlie Brightwell

    May 11, 2017 at 4:46 pm

    I will also remind everyone, especially Ms. Black, that the airport has been there since before she was born. As a matter of fact, she was born and raised in Walterboro….so I assume that she knew that she was buying a house near this “deplorable” facility. Oh, by the way she just recently purchased this home in the historic district…….not sure how old this house is, but I doubt that it pre-dates the airport. You might be interested in the fact that Ms. Blak’s father had an interest of sorts in the airport….don’t know about an aviation interest but he operated a drag strip on some of the old runways in the late 50’s and early 60’s. Wonder how much noise that created??

  6. Comment by Carol Black

    May 11, 2017 at 5:10 pm

    I am sorry that the article printed in the newspaper did not detail the specifics of our group’s request. We asked that the airport commission consider alternate flight paths–and to use the other two runways (one of which has GPS navigational landing capability)–so as to minimize the negative impacts of the low-flying aircraft traffic over residential neighborhoods. If your readers (especially those who have posted comments) would spend any time near the North Lemacks Street area, they would see and hear just how low–and how often–some large jets are taking off and landing on Runway #5–nearest the intersection of North Lemacks and Robertson Boulevard. This is especially true when pilots are learning to fly–and conducting “touch-and-go” takeoffs and landings–over and over again during a short period of time. I doubt any of those who have commented are living near or under the flight paths near the runways.
    Contrary to what Mr. Brightwell has posted–only one (Runway #17/35) of the runways has an “excellent” rating for its paving surface; Runway #5/23 is in “good” condition; and Runway #9/27 is in “fair” condition (these statistics can be found on airnav.com). We are asking that the airport commission determine the effects of the low-flying planes and jets that are taking off and landing to/from ALL runways–but we believe the worse effects are near the end of Runway #5. Planes and jets are flying over churches during church services. All we are asking is that the airport commission determine how to lessen the negative effects of the air traffic for everyone who lives near a runway. Ask anyone alive who remembers how busy the airport was during World War II–and they will tell you that pilots were not allowed to take off and land so near residential areas. We have three runways–and while Runway #5 is currently longer–the airport owns land adjacent to the other runways where they could be used as alternatives.
    I do appreciate that Mr. Brightwell was willing to sign his name–which I think should be required for all posts.

  7. Comment by Carol Black

    May 11, 2017 at 6:34 pm

    I am disheartened that Mr. Brightwell has chosen to take this issue to a personal level–but I feel I must respond. I know how long the airport has been in Walterboro; according to the airport’s website it was built in 1933 and bought by the city in 1937. My uncle was one of the flight instructors during World War II–and actually helped train the Tuskegee Airmen (you can see an exhibit about this at the Colleton County Museum). The house I bought in Walterboro was built I believe between 1927 and 1932. I grew up in a house a block away–where my mother still lives–and many of the residents who are being affected live in homes that were built before the airport was. Some live in houses that were built after the airport was. The issue is whether any steps can be taken to lessen the negative impacts of residents who live near the runways.
    I knew there was an airport near the house I bought–but had no idea that plans were in the works to expand it. I attended a meeting of the airport commission in April, 2016 to voice my concerns about the aircraft traffic over my mother’s home and the one I had recently purchased, but was not advised that expansion plans were in progress. From what I can see in the archives of this newspaper, very little information has been provided to the public about these expansion plans.
    My father was indeed the co-owner of the Walterboro Dragstrip, and I think Mr. Brightwell’s dates of operation are correct. I was born in 1957, and my father did not consult me about the operation of his business. I also think Mr. Brightwell is correct–the dragstrip noise was probably terrible–especially for those who lived near the airport (which my father and his partner leased). There is nothing I can do about that–but I hope I can do something to lessen the noise and other negative effects of the airport for the residents in the area now–and in the future.
    I never called the airport “deplorable”–that is Mr. Brightwell’s characterization.
    Not all of the signers of the petition live in the historic districts or the North Lemacks Street neighborhood, but all are concerned about the issue.
    Years ago the residents of Hampton Street complained about the noise and dangerous conditions caused when large tractor-trailer trucks were allowed to drive on Hampton Street. Their concerns had merit–and those types of trucks were barred from using Hampton Street. Now the residents in the North Lemacks Street area are bearing the brunt of the aircraft noise–and the potential danger of living so close to a runway where most of the planes and jets are landing. North Lemacks Street is currently under a revitalization effort designed to make the neighborhood more livable. Don’t the concerns of these residents have merit?
    I am sorry that Mr. Brightwell has chosen to make personal comments about me and especially my father. My mother signed the petition; does he want to make comments about her as well? I can only imagine that his comments relate back to a situation where I called into question the zoning of a parcel of land where Mr. Brightwell built a car wash on Jefferies Boulevard.
    This is an issue that is going to have far-reaching effects for the two historic districts and the North Lemacks Street neighborhood; I hope the airport commission puts aside personal feelings that they may or may not have about me (or anyone else involved) and make a determination to order an environmental assessment of the effects of the airport traffic–so the negative effects of the use of certain runways can be minimized.

  8. Comment by Adjoran

    May 11, 2017 at 8:33 pm

    The problem is jets, which were only able to use this airport after new runway surfaces installed some years ago. The likely resolution IF noise is determined excessive over the residential areas would likely be to simply take off in the opposite direction & turn south once well in the air, NOT to shut down the airport.

    As the kids say, “Chillax.”

  9. Comment by J Raller

    May 11, 2017 at 11:37 pm

    I think some clarification of facts are in order here.
    While runway 17/35 does have a GPS approach the main instrument approach used is the ILS, Instrument Landing System on 5/23. The load capacity of 5/23 is almost twice the weight of 17/35 so many of the larger aircraft can not land on the other runways. There is no jet or large aircraft flight training at the Walterboro airport, In fact there is only one part time instructor and he uses a small two seat aircraft.
    The height of aircraft flying into and out of Walterboro is regulated by the FAA and is set based on safety and the aircraft’s performance characteristics . In Walterboro the pattern altitude is a minimum of 1100 feet until final approach.
    When aircraft take off and land they MUST do so into the wind. Using another runway with a crosswind or tailwind can be highly dangerous.
    Runway 9/27 is substandard and may be closed. Rehabbing it would be cost prohibitive. Due to the other two runways the State nor the FAA would be contributing to the rehab. Changing the main runway to 17/35 would just move the approach to another part of Walterboro, 35’s pattern takes it over the High School and the hospital area and is not practical depending on the prevailing wind.
    The citizens of Colleton, through the Capital Improvement vote approved the renovation of the existing terminal. The present terminal has many problems, it is not in actuality an expansion. Nor is there any plans to extend any runways or taxiways, in fact one runway may be closed. So I don’t understand the reference to the airport expanding.
    Also the airport is probably the only governmental entity that makes money for the taxpayers.
    While the City and County through the Airport Commission is actively seeking aviation businesses an expansion is not in the plans.
    I can somewhat sympathize with Ms. Black but there simply is not a safe, viable alternative to runway 5/23. The fact is she knowingly bought a home under the flight path. I would hope all the parties do their due diligence and learn the whys of the airport and procedures used.

  10. Comment by Carol Black

    May 12, 2017 at 2:34 am

    Two points about the comment posted by “Adoran”: we have not asked that the airport be closed. As for taking off in the opposite direction, pilots prefer to land with a headwind, so as not to be pushed down the runway as they would be with a tailwind.
    Regarding the post by “J Raller”: it is not a “fact” that I knowingly bought a home under the flight path. While I am a native of Walterboro, I live in Los Angeles, and visit my mother four times a year. No jets were flying over the house when I looked at it during December, 2015, and contrary to what many people apparently think (based on posts here and on Facebook)–“who got here first” is not the determining factor as to whether or not the planes and jets are flying too low over certain residential neighborhoods. Furthermore, I have not requested the environmental assessment for my benefit. Walterboro has been my family’s home for generations, and I had intended to live in the house I recently purchased when I retire. That said, I could sell it and live elsewhere, but what about all the homeowners who live in the other residential areas bearing the brunt of the negative effects of the use of Runway #5? I have spent untold hours researching the issues and filed the request on behalf of these residents–whether you or anyone else believes it or not–and these residents know that this is indeed the case.
    Yes–the FAA regulates the height of the planes; we would like an environmental assessment conducted to determine whether the planes (and especially the larger jets) are in compliance. We also want noise level studies conducted, which are a part of an environmental assessment.
    The information about the airport expansion can be found on its website and review of recent ordinances approving a lease of airport property. On the website–under the “About Us” tab–it states that 80 additional acres at the end of Runway #5/23 have been secured for runway extension. The site goes on to specify that “approximately 500 acres of appropriately zoned land has been designated to accommodate on and off airport operations.”
    In January, 2017, city and county councils approved a 30-year least of 5.85 acres of land to Lowcountry Aviation Company Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul, LLC; the company has represented that it is going to offer, among many other things, flight training and simulation. In addition, at least one entity has approached the city planning commission regarding interest in purchasing one of the former schools (located near the intersection of North Lemacks Street and Robertson Boulevard) for a flight training school.
    In researching whether there are other alternatives, I have had the aerial photographs of the airport examined by a pilot employed by one of the major airlines. He has advised me that it is apparent that the pilots are landing on Runway #5 as it is easier to reach the terminal building, but pilots could also land on Runway #35 (even taking into account the prevailing winds). As for moving the approach–you can see that the approach to #35 has much more open land near the end of the runway (as compared to #5). Expanding services will result in increased aircraft traffic–and that constitutes an expansion.

  11. Comment by J Raller

    May 12, 2017 at 2:50 pm

    Ms. Black, I find your lack of knowledge of the flight paths ludicrous. As you stated your family lived in Walterboro for generations. You were well aware of the airport, it’s proximity and flight paths, to say otherwise makes you look foolish.
    The recruitment of businesses to the airport does not equal expansion. Also when you look at runway expansion are you looking at the actual extension or the broadening of “safe zones”? I know of no application for an expansion of pavement.
    Let me quote from you, ” I have had the aerial photographs of the airport examined by a pilot employed by one of the major airlines. He has advised me that it is apparent that the pilots are landing on Runway #5 as it is easier to reach the terminal building, but pilots could also land on Runway #35 (even taking into account the prevailing winds).” That is a laughable remark!
    Having some airline pilot look at an aerial and declaring the aircraft can use other runways is on it’s face a stupid remark. ALL aircraft particularly small aircraft need to take off and land as directly into the wind as possible.
    With the elimination of 9/27 it would make the situation even more dangerous.
    The aircraft land on 5/23 for a number of reasons. It is the most appropriate due to the wind. It is the runway with the ILS approach for the larger aircraft. It is the longest, safest runway, also in the best condition. It is the only runway capable of handling the weight of larger aircraft, twice the capacity of 17/35.
    Switching the main runway to 17/35 even if possible would simply switch the flight path over other neighborhoods. Simply 17/35 is not used as much due to it’s orientation.
    The height of aircraft in the pattern is not an arbitrary thing. It is set for the safety of the aircraft and a stabilized approach on a predetermined glide slope. Speaking of landing are you aware that all aircraft are at idle or reduced power already, reducing noise?
    The airport was established in 1933 with 3 runways. In 1942 it was expanded and the runways lengthened. After the war the County/City acquired the airport. You once made the remark that it is noisier than in WW II. I would challenge you to back that statement up. In addition were you aware of the large rail yard and heavy maintenance facilities where the “pole yard” is now? In actuality things have gotten quieter.
    While I understand you are objecting to the noise of living adjacent to an airport, I don’t believe the FAA has established a noise threshold for small airports. The runways are not going to change. The aircraft using the airport are not going to change their operations. So I’m not sure what you are trying to accomplish?
    If you had really done your homework you would know this before you purchased your home.

  12. Comment by Carol Black

    May 12, 2017 at 3:23 pm

    Mr./Ms. Raller (as you won’t include your full name, I cannot address you accurately–and readers cannot know if you have a personal or financial interest in the airport or its operations)–your most recent post contains incorrect information. I am not familiar with the precise flight paths for every runway at the airport, nor the altitude that each aircraft must adhere to on approach or take-off. I can say that the larger jets (I have been advised by an employee of Lowcountry Aviation that they are Gulfstream jets) that have been landing on or taking off from Runway #5 are flying lower over the neighborhoods than many of the planes–and these jets are causing much of the additional noise since I went to the airport commission to voice my concerns in April, 2016.
    I never said that it is “noisier than it was during World War II”–that is your mischaracterization of my statement that during World War II planes were not allowed to take-off or land so near residential areas. I submit that in all likelihood that was due to the fact that the airport was used as a flight training facility, and the choice of runways was probably due to safety concerns considering the pilots were learning to fly. As I previously stated in an earlier post, Lowcountry Aviation has represented that it is going to offer flight training as one of the services it will provide.
    Regarding the condition of Runway #5/23, you apparently have not checked the paving surface condition rating of the various runways on airnav.com. Please note that #5/23 is rated as “good”–while Runway #17/35 has an “excellent” rating.
    You apparently are not aware that the airport commission is seeking funding for an ILS Approach Lighting System and runway lights for Runway #17/35.
    You apparently are also unaware that airports can restrict the use of certain runways for noise abatement purposes.
    You have every right to disagree with our concerns, but I would ask that you not make continued misstatements about what I have written.

  13. Comment by Babs

    May 12, 2017 at 3:44 pm

    I find the personal comments about Ms Black and her family to be not only rude and condescending but unrelated to a reasonable conversation about airport issues. It’s indicative of someone who is running low on salient points to make.
    Regardless of the longevity of anyone’s citizenship here, we are all stakeholders in Walterboro’s prosperity and quality of life. Which businesses were developed here because of our airport and how many jobs do they create? I read that about 140 jobs would be created by the airport expansion but have not seen what kind of jobs they would be. If they are associated only with the construction itself, those are not permanent jobs and ones not likely to be contracted out to a local company.

  14. Comment by Babs

    May 12, 2017 at 3:52 pm

    And while I am glad for those fortunate landowners who have the means to fly private planes to and from their lowcountry plantations, their share of taxes is proportional to the value of their properties, much of which we know is mitigated by land trusts.

  15. Comment by Charlie Brightwell

    May 12, 2017 at 4:23 pm

    My previous statements addressing this issue were not meant to be a personal attack on Ms. Black. For her to interject a dispute concerning a matter of zoning that occurred over ten years ago is juvenile and a personal. By the way, the land owner and I prevailed in the matter with a ruling in our favor.

    It is sincere opinion that this matter is a non-issue.
    I believe the facts to be presented by an assessment performed by the FAA and State Aviation Commission will prove that the airport is operating per the laws and regulations for the benefit of the majority of Walterboro citizens and County residents.

    As to plane flying over churches durin services….I attend St. Judes Church which is directly in the flight path of runway #5-23. Yes, jets occasionally fly over during a service….noise from them has never disrupted a sermon, our prayers, or our worship more that a very brief moment until the aircraft has passed by.

    I have made my arguments. I shall not comment further.

  16. Comment by J Raller

    May 12, 2017 at 7:41 pm

    The pavement rating of a particular runway has no bearing on this discussion. Suffice to say all three runways are usable, depending on the weight of the aircraft. 5/23 has recently been resealed. As stated before 5/23 has twice the load bearing capacity of 17/35. It is also longer, has the ILS system and runway lighting. It is also the preferred runway due to it’s orientation to the prevailing winds which are usually from the NE or SW.
    I don’t know who you are speaking to at Lowcountry Aviation but second hand information is usually not reliable. I would be willing to bet the vast majority of jets are not Gulfstreams. Not that it makes any difference what brand they are. However most jets do not fly lower than the established pattern altitude of 1,100 feet, it would be dangerous!
    In order to accomplish what you wish, runway 17/35 would have to be completely rebuilt, lengthened (it’s 300′ shorter than 5/23) and as stated it would still cause aircraft to overfly residential areas and the high school.
    So it seems as you bought a house, knowing exactly where the airport is, and now want to complain about the noise?

  17. Comment by Carol Black

    May 12, 2017 at 9:19 pm

    For the umpteenth time–this is not about MY house–it is about an entire residential section of Walterboro that is near Runway #5–and I have filed my request on behalf of a diverse group of people. There is an old adage–“don’t ask a man to wear shoes you wouldn’t wear yourself”–and I challenge you to drive to the intersection of North Lemacks Street and Robertson Boulevard–turn onto North Lemacks Street–and imagine what it would be like to live in one of the houses near Runway #5.

  18. Comment by Babs

    May 12, 2017 at 9:29 pm

    I’m not complaining about the noise though it is a bother on Sunday afternoons cookouts with my family. I’m complaining about the expenditure of tax dollars on an airport that will benefit very few while my street is potholed terribly, the porch sitters are raising Cain with vulgar language all day and night not keeping up their properties thus devaluing mine and we don’t have recycling like this community apparently had a few years ago. Again, I ask: what businesses were brought here by the airport and how many permanent jobs did it bring? Does USC Salkahatchie have an education program for jet techs like Savannah Tech does for its Gulfstream future employees? That is economic development. Unfortunately, what I’m seeing in the 9 months that I’ve owned property and lived here, is that a few “old Guard” individuals would rather preserve their rarified stake than see their city expand and flourish. New blood is needed in this town, new ideas. Neil Young said “rust never sleeps.” It is certainly wide awake in Walterboro.

  19. Comment by J Raller

    May 15, 2017 at 9:35 am

    I believe you are looking for runway 17/35 for a solution. Other than it has less than 1/2 the weight capacity of 5/23, there is another problem.
    When an aircraft flies into an airport they fly what is called a pattern. This includes a downwind leg parallel to the runway, turns base leg at a right angle to the runway and then turns a final leg into the wind and onto the runway. The pattern is a left traffic pattern.
    What this means is the downwind leg would be flown over Walterboro and the very area you are referencing, and may I add for a longer time and higher throttle setting, hence more noise. The distance on the downwind leg from the actual runway flown would vary depending on the aircraft. A small aircraft about 1/4 mile from the runway (to the side). a larger aircraft like the jets would take them over Walterboro proper as well as your area.
    There is another old adage, “be careful what you wish for”.

  20. Comment by Carol Black

    May 15, 2017 at 11:06 am

    I have been advised that a “left pattern” is standard when no other pattern is published–and all the airport has to do is state a “right pattern” for Runway #35. The commercial pilot I consult refers you to Oconee County Regional Airport in Seneca, SC–where a “right pattern” is stated for one of their runways to keep planes away from the million dollar homes on Lake Hartwell. One of the runways at Jim Hamilton/L.B. Owens Airport in Columbia is designated as “right pattern”–one at Beaufort County Airport–two at Greenville Downtown Airport–one at Mount Pleasant Regional Airport/Faison Field–one at Sumter Airport–one at Summerville Airport–one at Grand Strand Airport (North Myrtle Beach)–one at Orangeburg Municipal Airport–one at Barnwell Regional Airport–one at Chester Catawba Regional Airport–one at Conway-Horry County Airport–one at Donaldson Field Airport (Greenville)–one at the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport–one at the Hartsville Regional Airport–one at Fairview Airport (Landrum)–one at Marion County Airport–one at Myrtle Beach International Airport–and one at Newberry County Airport.

  21. Comment by J Raller

    May 15, 2017 at 11:16 am

    OK then you would have a right traffic pattern for 17 and have to overfly the airport and other runways, a dangerous situation. Keep in mind most of those airports you cite have single runways! Walterboro has 3.

  22. Comment by Carol Black

    May 15, 2017 at 11:31 am

    You have previously stated (in an earlier post) that “Runway #9/27 is substandard and may be closed.” You seem to have some “insider” information–but you fail to include your full name and your affiliation/connection to the airport–if any. Many of the airports did have single runways; many did not. I included the full list (not including turf runways) so anyone reading these posts would see that MANY airports in SC have published “right pattern” runways. We an go back and forth over specifics all day long–but unless you are a member of the airport commission–neither of us has a vote as to whether the commission agrees to order the environmental assessment. I hope the commission does its due diligence and considers ALL pertinent information.


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