The Payson Airport Advisory Board voted Tuesday to endorse a landing pattern that begins south of the airport instead of rerouting the airport's suggested landing pattern to the north.
The committee voted in a six-to-one decision, however, to modify the airport's established pattern to reduce noise over residential neighborhoods when possible, board member Bob Day said.
Hilda Crawford, a non-flying member of the board, suggested during the meeting that the board endorse a pattern that routes planes to the north of the airport to reduce noise and protect homes and businesses to the south during an airplane emergency.
She voted against the modified south pattern.
Day and board members Jim Jones and Gordon Holm said a pattern to the north would generate more safety concerns than the pattern to the south.
Most airport traffic comes in from the south for a $50 hamburger, Day said. That's the price of food and gas.
As many as 35 pilots a weekend fly their small planes from Phoenix to Payson to eat breakfast or lunch and then fly home, he said. Bringing those planes across the airport into a north landing pattern would put more planes at risk for mid-air collisions, he said.
Also complicating the matter is the airport's status as an uncontrolled airport, Day said.
Uncontrolled airports don't have control towers and all patterns are suggested, he said. There's no one to force a pilot to follow a pattern.
"It is not a violation (to fly a different pattern)," he said. "A pilot in command can deviate from the pattern for the safety of the flight." But most pilots respect the standard pattern at an airport for safety reasons, he said.
Flying to the north would just push the noise problem from one area to another Jones said.
"Payson Ranchos historically has not had the traffic," Jones said. "And (approaching from the north) doesn't change the takeoff or arrival noise either."
Crawford's home is in Payson North, directly in line of arrival noise, she said.
The undeveloped land to the north creates more turbulence and gives pilots less opportunity to make a safe emergency landing, Day said. If an engine fails, a pilot has just a few miles to find a safe landing site, he said.
"It was explained to me that they fly over this house so they can land on the golf course (in an emergency)," said Linda Papaioanu, who lives south of Payson near Pioneer Cemetery.
She said the noise above her home is so loud on weekends that she closes her windows. She began attending airport advisory board meetings three months ago to find a solution.
"We get up just before dawn and close the windows because the noise is so great," she said. "But there is nothing they can do about it. It is just the noise the propeller makes."
And moving the planes to the north may not be the answer either, Papaioanu said.
"I feel they gave us their best shot," she said. "The diagram (voted on) will solve most of the problems. I think they believe this is the best they can come up with and keep everyone safe. If there is another answer, I don't know what it is."
Crawford, however, said she's still concerned about the noise and the hazards that low-flying airplanes can create. The new pattern indicates that planes should come in at an altitude of 6,200 feet, Crawford said. "I am at 5,100 feet." That puts planes slightly more than 1,000 feet above her home.
Crawford said she plans to continue looking into a pattern to the north.
"The problem is the one-hour flying lesson -- when they keep going over and over (practicing touch and goes)," she said.
A touch and go is a quick landing and takeoff routine repeated over and over again.
Board members said they plan to begin a campaign to educate the flying and non-flying community about the modified traffic pattern.
"In addition to educating pilots, we are going to work with the community to educate them," Holm said.
Day said it will likely be six months before the board's education campaign becomes fully effective and residents near the airport notice a consistent difference in the noise levels.