Jun 17, 2023

Monitoring and Insulating Sound at Seattle

Let's take a look at what the airport and its operator are doing to reduce the impact of noise pollution on nearby communities.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), and its operator, the Port of Seattle, care about insulating neighbors from the impacts of aircraft noise pollution. In the first part of a series, Simple Flying explores how SEA addresses aircraft noise.

The Port of Seattle, the governmental operator of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, takes seriously the noise impact of the airport on its neighbors. Therefore, the Port measures noise impacts toward checking for reductions in the future. As business expert H. James Harrington said, according to CIO’s September 1999 magazine,

“Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.”

The Port of Seattle operates 23 noise monitors in the Seattle megalopolis from Federal Way in the south to Seattle’s University District in the north, as you can see in the below Port of Seattle map:

As the Port of Seattle shares on its website, the noise monitoring system is just one part of a “comprehensive suite of tools the Port uses” for aircraft noise understanding. In an interview with Simple Flying, the Port of Seattle’s Noise Program Manager, Thomas Fagerstrom noted that the noise monitoring system does help with the Port’s Fly Quiet program. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does not allow the use of the noise monitoring system for making decisions around federal grants, instead using noise modeling.

For the FAA, there are federal regulations that require noise modeling to address aircraft noise. The FAA uses day-night average sound level or DNL as a metric. The metrics for each airport come from, according to the FAA,

An entire year's worth of flights from the airport are examined using sophisticated aircraft noise modeling programs. Every aircraft's weight, trajectory, flight path, and many other characteristics are input into the program.

It's worth noting that the manufacturer normally measures aircraft noise during testing in very controlled conditions. The DNL metric helps determine where the FAA can support the Port of Seattle to dispense aircraft noise mitigation funding.

When it comes to noise mitigation, the Port of Seattle is focused on noise insulation. Actually, the Port started insulation projects back in 1985. Now, at least 9,400 single-family homes, 903 apartment units in 18 complexes, five condominium complexes, seven places of worship, and multiple schools have received noise insulation paid for by the Port of Seattle.

Read our analysis of how airports address noise globally.

The Port of Seattle can provide sound-reducing windows and doors, which cost-effectively muffle aircraft noise from penetrating the indoor environment. Additionally, a positive ventilation system and electrical system upgrades to support the positive ventilation system are likely – and this is to serve as temperature control as the soundproofed windows and doors are intended to be closed.

Standard equipment in any Port of Seattle modification includes smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors as per local building codes as well. Also, any asbestos or lead found in the areas that impact the installation of sound insulation will be removed by the Port.

This concludes part 1 of a series about SEA's efforts to address aircraft noise impacts on the community. In the next part, we’ll address the airport’s Fly Quiet program and other collaborative efforts with its airlines and the community.

What are your inquiries and thoughts? Please feel free to share with civility in the comments.

Sources: CIO Sept 1999, FAA – Community Response to Noise,

Journalist - When not reading and writing about aviation, Joe is photographing it. Joe Loves educating the public about aviation, and generating enthusiasm around flying while supporting all those who work in aviation. Based in Skagit County, United States

What are your inquiries and thoughts? Please feel free to share with civility in the comments.IATA/ICAO Code:Country:CEO:Passenger Count :Runways :