Updated at 10:25 a.m.
Federal aviation officials’ recent move to suspend the use of one airplane traffic pattern at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport will affect which neighborhoods have to listen to airport noise — but officials say it’s too soon to tell where more planes could be flying.
The Federal Aviation Administration said in July that it was going to block planes from landing on Runway 35 while runway 30L was open for departures. Officials said they have concerns about the risk of a midair collision if a landing plane had to suddenly change course and want to figure out a safer traffic pattern.
Loren Olson, a city government relations representative who focuses on airport issues, told a Minneapolis City Council committee on Thursday that the change has prompted a drop in the number of planes that can land at the airport. Before the temporary suspension, up to 90 planes could land each hour. Now, the limit is between 60 and 64 planes.
While the city and noise-reduction advocates have lobbied for a drop in air traffic, Olson said it’s likely the airport will want to find a way to resume a more typical level of traffic. One option, she said, could be focusing departures on a single runway.
Council Member John Quincy said it’s difficult to tell exactly what effect the closure will have in the meantime.
“In theory, this should be favorable to the city,” he said of the temporary drop in traffic. “But we’re also looking at what are the environmental impacts of restricting departures to one runway.”
Olson said higher traffic on a single runway wouldn’t necessarily mean all planes would head out in a single path. Depending on the destination of those flights, the planes would split off and fly over different neighborhoods.
For now, she said the city is looking to get more information so it can keep residents informed and get them involved in the process.
“We want to have answers to what the plan or expectations are before we can really engage the public appropriately about the future of the airport,” she said.
Erin Golden • 612-673-4790