Jet Noise

The most painfully obvious issue

What do we mean by ‘noise’?

Noise from the jets is not just like ‘being near an airport’ as many assume. It is far worse – louder, enhanced by incredible turbulence, and emitted by a machine that is specifically designed to enhance its intimidation factor through sound assault.

Decibels (dB or dBA) at Ebey’s Reserve in central Whidbey Island have regularly been recorded well over 80 dB, sometimes over 120 dB. This is a rural, residential area partly made up of National parks, and the presence of this level of noise is unacceptable as it stands today; the Navy is now talking about escalating the number of flights to a near-constant tempo.

The effects of excessive noise can be broken down into to main categories:

Sound is measured in units called decibels (dB). Sounds of less than 75 decibels, even after long exposure, are unlikely to cause hearing loss. However, long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. The louder the sound, the shorter the amount of time it takes for NIHL (Noise Induced Hearing Loss) to happen.

Here are the average decibel ratings of some familiar sounds:

Approximate Decibel Level Examples
0 dB the quietest sound you can hear.
30 dB whisper, quiet library.
60 dB normal conversation, sewing machine, typewriter.
90 dB lawnmower, shop tools, truck traffic; 8 hours per day is the maximum exposure (protects 90% of people).
100 dB chainsaw, pneumatic drill, snowmobile; 2 hours per day is the maximum exposure without protection.
115 dB sandblasting, loud rock concert, auto horn; 15 minutes per day is the maximum exposure without protection.
140 dB gun muzzle blast, jet engine; noise causes pain and even brief exposure injures unprotected ears; maximum allowed noise with hearing protector.

As you can see, jets flying overhead for hours during the day, and measured around 120 dB, is not acceptable.

Read more about noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) here.

An interesting read on this subject is the Navy’s own document explaining how USN and USAF are not compliant with noise controls for both servicemembers and the community, and recommendations about how to address it that clearly have been ignored.

How does the Navy get away with exposing civilians to deadly noise?

By using a numbers shell-game. They use an outdated estimation program that has little basis in reality.

First they recorded the decibels from a GE engine on a test platform on the ground, then fed that information into noise-mapping software that considered topology of the area, and then finally, the number was averaged throughout the entire year. This means that days with no flights were averaged with estimations (not actual tests) of noise during flights.

Needless to say, the number they came up with was nice and low: 65 dB, which is under the limit for hearing damage but over the limit (according to the Navy’s own figures) for residential development.

These numbers were determined in 2005 for the Prowler jets, and have not been re-examined for the Growler jets.

The Navy has resisted taking actual tests of real-life noise that the Growlers produce over civilians on Whidbey Island. COER hired a very respected audiology team to take the accurate measurements that the Navy refused to do themselves, and sued the Navy to force them to conduct a new Environmental Impact Study.

Before even the Draft EIS was complete, the Navy requested a large increase in Growler jets and flights over Whidbey Island. It is clear they feel they do not have to answer to anyone, and can do as they please with civilian populations that stand in their way.