New Routes Expected June 2017
On Monday, October 3, 2016 representatives of the Town of Fort Myers Beach met with Mr. Dennis Roberts, Regional Administrator FAA Southern Region. The purpose of the meeting was for Mr. Roberts to provide an update on the FAA objective to establish a public arrival to RSW that would have aircraft fly over Estero Bay. This change would reduce the number of overflights for the Town of Fort Myers Beach.
The Arrival routes being discussed are called the Back Bay RNAV Visual Approach and are currently restricted to five airlines. Pilots who have been properly trained using aircraft appropriately equipped must request using the Back Bay approaches. Only about 9% of the aircraft arriving on the new route established in October 2008 currently use the Back Bay approach. The remaining 91% fly over the middle and south end of Estero Island.
Prior to October 2008, few if any aircraft flew over the south end of Estero Island. The number of aircraft flying over the middle of the island increased significantly. At a previous meeting with Mr. Roberts on March 3, 2016, he informed the Town that he hoped that the new Back Bay routes, arriving both from the north and south, would be made public and implemented by September 28, 2016. This has been delayed. If the routes are made public, controllers can ask pilots to follow the established routes. This would significantly increase utilization of Back Bay routes. Unfortunately, flight checks failed to pass FAA tests because they did not meet flight standards for all aircraft that would utilize these approaches. Furthermore, some waypoints have to be modified to comply with the Metroplex program that is being implemented by the FAA for all airports in the region. These changes may also require some additional environmental studies.
Taking all these things into consideration, the new scheduled implementation of the public Back Bay arrival routes is June 22, 2017. In the short term, it was suggested that the Town reach out to flight operations for each of the airlines that are qualified to fly the Back Bay approaches encouraging increased use. There is a potential for significant financial savings for the airlines if they increase utilization of the Back Bay routes as well as decreasing overflights for FMB.
The meeting also discussed the altitude of aircraft overflights for Fort Myers Beach. Webtrak data shows that altitudes have been increasing over the course of the last few years. This is the result of the FAA increasing the altitude on ILS arrival plates used by pilots during instrument landings to 3,000 ft. Furthermore, controllers have been reminding pilots to be at 3,000 ft. or higher during visual approaches when traversing Estero Island. For reasons not well understood, RNAV arrival plates, which are widely used by pilots, remain at 2,000 ft. over FMB. Mr. Roberts agreed to pursue changing the RNAV arrival plates to mirror what has already been established for ILS arrival plates.
Webtrak data, collected over the last 2 years, does not substantiate the recommendation from the RSW Part 150 Noise Study that Runway 24 be preferred at night rather than Runway 06. Aircraft arriving on Runway 24 do not fly over FMB. Implementation of the Part 150 recommendation would reduce night time and early morning overflights that disturb sleep. Mr. Roberts stated that the Part 150 Study is prepared by RSW and they are in the best position to encourage implementation. A meeting with Mr. Robert Ball, Executive Director of the Lee County Port Authority on May 9, 2016 gained little support for helping implement the Part 150 recommendations beneficial to FMB.
Documented complaints to RSW by FMB Islanders, whose sleep is disturbed by night time overflights, will be needed to prompt action. The RSW Noise Hotline can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 239-590-4466 to document quality of life issues for FMB.
Representative, Islanders Concerned about Aircraft Issues
Photo by Teeraporn Tirakul, 123RF.com