The chilly and windy weather of the past week means some relief for people in Eagan and other parts of the south metro from the roar of planes taking off or landing at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
The southerly and easterly winds that brought unseasonably warm weather in late September and nearly all of October meant air traffic controllers directed incoming and outgoing planes to runway 17, putting the flight path directly over Eagan’s residential areas, sometimes for many consecutive days.
That’s rare, airport officials said. In late fall, the wind often blows from the north and the west, putting planes on parallel runways 12R and 12L, which takes them over some noise-mitigated homes but mostly over industrial areas in northeast Eagan.
Diane Miller, assistant city administrator for Eagan and staff liaison for the Airport Relations Commission, said she received an uptick in calls about airplane noise this fall, most saying, “Usually it starts to die down in the fall; why is it still going?”
That “triggered my call to the MAC [the Metropolitan Airports Commission] and the FAA to say, what’s going on here?” she said.
In September and October, runway 17 was used for 41.3 percent and 31 percent of flights, respectively. Runway 12R was used 7.9 percent and 6.5 percent, with 12L used 21.9 and 16.5 percent. The percentages for runways 17 and 12R/12L are usually reversed at this time of year.
In a statement on its website this month, the MAC said, “As a direct result of the prevailing wind patterns, the airport was in a south flow configuration for 35 out of 61 days in September and October. At times, this configuration was used for many consecutive days.”
Wind direction matters because wind generates lift, the force that keeps planes airborne. Stronger headwinds mean safer takeoffs and landings, the MAC said.
Miller said she encourages people who call to file an official complaint with the MAC or to call the MAC hot line (612-726-9411). Airport officials pay attention to that, she said.
“I think residents understand,” she said. “Airport noise is a tough issue because it really is a balance between the benefits the airport brings to the city and the noise.”