Neighbors of Love Field have had reason to cup their hands over their ears lately.
“You can walk out to your front yard and look up, and it’s like LBJ Freeway running over top of you,” Highland Park resident Judd Bradbury said.
Southwest Airlines has not made a change to its usual summertime volume of 3,400 daily flights, spokesman Brad Hawkins said. Instead, the issue comes down to terminal updates and the repeal of the Wright Amendment.
The Wright Amendment established limits on direct flights from Love Field across the country in 1979. In October 2014, those restrictions will be lifted, but not without some growing pains.
“The airport is a work in progress,” Hawkins said.
The change affects the airport’s layout, which consists of two runways and a series of connecting taxiways. The east runway, closest to Highland Park, was closed for updates for just 60 days and reopened in mid-April.
Then there’s the terminal. In preparation of the Wright Amendment’s repeal, the airport opened a new terminal in April. Now, the old one must be torn down. Because of construction, a taxiway that normally provides easy access to the west runway is closed.
“It’s a problem for [pilots] to get around the construction,” FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford said.
Therefore, many pilots are using the east runway to move more quickly and safely, and save time and fuel. But the trade-off is increased noise.
No complaints have been reported in University Park. However, complaints in Highland Park have “skyrocketed,” town administrator Bill Lindley said. As for Dallas, the city’s director of aviation, Mark Duebner, said his office received 171 complaints in May, a sharp increase from the usual 20 to 30 per month.
To cut down on nighttime noise, Southwest has a “noise abatement agreement” with Dallas. That means it’s suggested — but not required — for pilots to use the west runway between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.
“If they really want to use the other runway because of the construction and the hindrance they have, they have the right to use it,” Lunsford said.
Hawkins said the overhaul is roughly two-thirds completed, and the terminal construction must be finished by the time the flight restrictions are lifted. Once that happens, the facility will actually be smaller and sleeker than before — and runway use will be balanced again.
“We’re certainly aware of the dialogue, and we want to be a good neighbor,” Hawkins said. “Just know that at the end of the tunnel, there is a light.”