When I was in the midst of the ear-infection phase all kids seem to go through, I remember being almost dropped to my knees by the noise of a …
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When I was in the midst of the ear-infection phase all kids seem
to go through, I remember being almost dropped to my knees by the
noise of a helicopter passing over my parents' house.
We lived 2-3 miles as the crow flies from a hospital and the
helicopter was on its way there to transport a patient.
This was a long time ago, before the slick, duty-specific Air
Life helicopters were used for such tasks. So the helicopter in
question was an army Huey, one of the indelible symbols of the
Even when your ear parts aren't swollen to the brink of their
limits, these helicopters are incredibly loud. I usually loved
listening to them fly over, but I was running for cover that
Loud aircraft over my head wasn't unusual when I was growing up.
If you pull out a map of Colorado Springs and draw a line from the
Air Force Academy to Peterson Air Force Base, you'll probably put a
mark right over my parents' house. Sometimes, jets buzzed overhead.
Mostly, though, we put up with the droning of enormous C-130
transport planes flying in and out of Pete Field, as we called
This wasn't always convenient, but neither are a lot of things.
My parents still live in that house and every fourth or fifth time
I'm on the phone with them as they relax on their back porch, the
conversation pauses while an Air Force plane passes over, making it
impossible to hear.
Through all of this, it never once occurred to us to complain to
the hospital for sending helicopters over our house. We never asked
the Air Force if they wouldn't mind routing their C-130s over the
eastern plains so our conversations could go on uninterrupted.
We didn't do it because it was just part of living where we
lived. The Air Force installations predated our time there. The
hospital was built after we moved in, but who doesn't want a
hospital close by?
I bring this up because we've had some news in our papers
recently about noise at Centennial Airport. First, we had a story
about a grant that will pay for measurement of noise levels around
the airport. This, of course, is a response to complaints about
noise and the hope is that more detailed information will lead to
workable compromises. This week, we have a story about a vintage
aircraft making an emergency landing in a Douglas County field,
which some home owners who don't like the noise are using as
ammunition for their argument that flight patterns come too close
to their homes.
In these discussions, it seems like a lot of venom is thrown the
way of Centennial Airport Director Robert Olislagers.
It's just unfair.
Centennial Airport celebrated its 40th anniversary last year,
which means the airport predates many, if not all, of the
residential and business development where these complaints
What seems to get pushed aside in some of these discussions is
that development invaded the airport's space, not the other way
around. It wasn't by accident, either. Early developers of the
Denver Tech Center saw the nearby airport as a great asset. Much of
Centennial Airport's busy departure and arrival schedule is made up
of business travelers who see the airport's proximity to one of
Denver's great commercial hubs as one of its advantages over Denver
In many ways, I think Centennial Airport is an asset to our
community. Aside from the practical benefits to our business
community and economy in general, there isn't much about being
close to a general aviation airport that's home to war birds of all
kinds and a gateway for celebrity visits to Denver that doesn't
appeal to the kid in me. Spend some time with Olislagers, and
you'll know he recognizes he has a very cool job. But the political
aspects of his job are something I wouldn't wish on anyone.
As the grant money is spent and solutions to the noise problems
are discussed, a little perspective would be nice. Olislagers is
trying to find solutions to problems he, and the airport he runs,
didn't create. He has to be part of the compromises to come and
accountable for his end of the conversation about how much traffic
is too much. But the overall accountability must be shared, to some
degree, with the people whose lack of planning allowed development
so close to the airport during the past 41 years.
The lion's share of the accountability must land on the home
owners who bought those homes in the flight path of the airport and
now expect the airport to accommodate them.
And yes, there are times when the airplane noise that interrupts
my phone conversations on my back porch in Parker comes from planes
over my head. I don't blame anyone. My biggest complaint — why
can't that passing plane be a really cool P-51 Mustang a little
Jeremy Bangs is the managing editor of Colorado Community
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