Prospect of moving noise from one metro neighborhood to another wasn't appealing to members of the airport noise panel.
Tweaking flight patterns could reduce noise over some south Minneapolis homes, but more controversial changes would be needed to make a bigger long-term impact.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) delivered that message on Wednesday to an airport panel looking to satisfy residents complaining about a spike in airplane noise.
Some flights could be diverted slightly west of two neighborhoods, "a short-term option that could provide some relief," said Carl Rydeen, assistant air traffic manager at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
The quick fix would involve northbound flights to destinations such as Duluth, Winnipeg and International Falls. But flights will continue heading north and east over the neighborhoods of Keewaydin and Ericsson, whose residents complained this summer of increased noise.
Rydeen also raised the possibility of a more significant change in the airport's main departure routes, but he stressed that it would require a thorough safety evaluation and approval of airport officials.
The prospect of moving noise from one metro neighborhood to another wasn't appealing to members of the airport noise panel.
"One of our mantras is that we don't take noise from one area and simply dump it in another area," said Elizabeth Petschel, who represents Mendota Heights. "I would have a big concern about doing that. I think it's something you'd have to go into with your eyes wide open."
John Quincy, a Minneapolis City Council member on the panel who has pressed the FAA for solutions, also was leery of changing the main departure tracks.
"We could be shifting within our own neighborhoods ... so we're not advocating a change," he said.
The noise panel makes recommendations to the Metropolitan Airports Commission.
Yet another option proposed by Rydeen involves the use of new technology to better concentrate flights "over areas such as major road corridors, rivers."
But that technology is more than a year from reality and its effect is unclear. Directing flights over the Minnesota River, for instance, wouldn't significantly affect the complaining neighborhoods.
After residents in Keewaydin and Ericsson complained that noise had gotten worse this last summer, the FAA cited its decision in 2010 to route more departures over their neighborhoods. The re-routing reduced the potential for planes to cross paths and began after a near-collision between a commercial jetliner and a cargo plane in September 2010. The change sharply increased the number of flights over the neighborhoods.
Quincy, Minneapolis City Council Member Sandy Colvin Roy and residents voiced skepticism that the change was the sole reason for more noise. The FAA agreed this fall to explore other possible factors.
The FAA later said the greater use of smaller regional jets contributed more to the increased noise than the agency's decision to re-route departures.
Scott Shelerud, a support specialist for the FAA in Minneapolis, told panel members on Wednesday that five years of data indicate that the regional jets fly lower after takeoff.
Moreover, because the smaller jets fly at roughly the same speed as larger jets, they can fly in the same path. The smaller jets replaced slower turboprops that had to fan out at departure to avoid being overtaken by jets.
Much of the FAA presentation stressed that options were limited. "We cannot dictate to our customer, specifically the airlines, the type of aircraft they fly or what schedule they fly those aircraft," Rydeen said. Because of wind conditions and other factors, "we also cannot simply redirect those departures to another runway."
Pat Doyle • 612-673-4504