Neighbors weren’t buying what Southwest Airlines officials had to say at the Love Field Environmental Advisory Committee meeting on July 11.
The quarterly gathering usually doesn’t draw much attention, but this year’s noise complaints caused the turnout to skyrocket.
Community officials including Highland Park Mayor Joel Williams and new City Council member Jennifer Staubach Gates were among the many attendees.
“You’re my customers,” vice president of airport affairs Bob Montgomery said on the noise abatement issues. “It causes us a great deal of angst when we cause you angst.”
The Lemmon Avenue runway reopened after construction in April, and the new terminal opened in the same month. Coincidently, construction around the terminal makes it hard for pilots to access the Denton Drive runway, so the normal Denton-to-Lemmon ratio of 70/30 was thrown off drastically.
“Safety and efficiency is the most important thing for the FAA and for us,” Dallas director of aviation Mark Duebner said.
When the shift in balance hit, the complaints went up — drastically. Southwest told the crowd that they had distributed a “read before fly” to pilots, asking that they not use the Lemmon Avenue runway from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. Laughter and scoffs broke out in the audience.
Up until April, pilot compliance with the voluntary program was about where Southwest wants it — at 80 percent or higher. Since then, the numbers have been painfully low.
Montgomery argued that when construction finishes in time to lift the Wright Amendment in October 2014, the airport will seek a 50/50 balance between the runways. But that itself raises concerns for some, because officials are not yet releasing estimates on post-ban flight volume.
“Is it the case that ... a 50/50 goal is purely about Southwest economics and not about safety?” Greenway Park resident Bill Lockhart asked.
The discussion went on for two hours, with officials and residents growing weary. With all the pending developments, it seemed too early to tell if the next meeting, scheduled for Oct. 10, will create as much stir.
“There’s not an easy solution,” Preston Hollow resident Robert Galecke said.