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Noisy Skies over Leschi

It is not just the Blue Angels. Every sunny day, there is constant noise from commercial aircraft over Leschi. This is the East Turn. Whenever it is sunny and the wind is from the North, over a hundred commercial aircraft will fly up to Leschi, then turn East over Lake Washington.

The East Turn was implemented by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 1975 to save fuel. The Organization of Oil Producing Countries cut petroleum production causing a worldwide shortage and soaring prices in 1975. Ever since then, Leschi has been noisy on bright summer days.

Leschi is 11 miles north of SeaTac Field. Leschi was picked for the location of the East Turn in order to avoid flying over Mercer Island. A strong contingent from Mercer Island had pressed its muscle to be freed of noise impacts.

Prior to 1975, it was a quiet place. All air traffic out of SeaTac followed the Duwamish River through the industrial area and out over Elliot Bay. This route reduced the noise impact on residential neighborhoods.

The neighborhoods along the Duwamish and Elliot Bay became increasingly vocal about aircraft noise as planes strayed from the prescribed paths into their neighborhoods. Two Port Commissioners were elected from these neighborhoods, Patricia Davis from West Seattle and Paige Miller from Queen Anne. They asked the FAA to engage the cities and sections of Seattle affected by air noise in a community engagement process about noise reduction.

The noise reduction process took place in the late 1990s and several Leschi residents attended and tried to influence a change in the East Turn. The result was a noise reduction plan to advance the use of quieter aircraft flying higher. The plan was not implemented.

Advice from J.K. Burwell, writing to NextDoor Leschi: “Call often!” Residents can request information about Sea-Tac-related aircraft noise and operations, learn more about noise insulation or report aircraft noise through the port’s online Noise Comment Form; or contact the Noise Programs Office by calling 206-787-5393 or toll-free 1-800-826-1147.

~John Barber

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