Q. Who governs airspace over my property?
A. According to 49 U.S.C. section 40103:
“The United States Government has exclusive sovereignty of airspace of the United States and the FAA has the authority to prescribe air traffic regulations on the flight of aircraft, including UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems aka “drones”).”
Q. I live near a school/my neighborhood is restricted airspace why are aircraft flying above us?
A. Only the white house, active military bases, or areas controlled by a using agency (such as the Secret Service) are in restricted or prohibited special use airspace. You can see restricted or prohibited special use airspace on the FAA’s Know before you Fly website map at: http://knowbeforeyoufly.org/air-space-map.
Q. Why do aircraft take off and land at early and late hours?
A. Similar to public roadways being within the public right-of-way the same applies to airspace and there are no time restrictions for traffic on the road or in the air. Jet aircraft operate in the early morning and late-evening hours for various reasons. Many are medical flights with patients or critical organs on board. Other flights involve corporations and businesses based near the airport.
Q. Why MUST the planes fly over my subdivision?
A.While the Airport encourages visual flight rules (VFR) traffic to avoid subdivisions; these procedures are not mandatory and will soon be impossible to perform. The Federal Aviation Administration flight check director determines the safest route for instrument flight rules (IFR) aircraft to follow with respect to terrain avoidance and airspace procedures. The Airport can’t change them, and we don’t have control over aircraft after they leave our runways. Flight safety must take priority over all other concerns. Pilots generally want to limit their noise impact below, but they are occupied with the demands of aircraft control, navigation, and traffic avoidance.
Q. Why can’t planes climb higher before flying over residential areas?
A. Airplanes at this altitude (5,670 feet above sea level) don’t perform as well as they do at lower elevations. This means they can’t climb as quickly because their wings, engines and propellers are less efficient in the thin air. The planes create more noise because they are forced into a more shallow climb angle. At lower elevations, pilots typically use the lowest power setting possible for take off, reducing engine wear, saving fuel and creating less noise. At a high-altitude airport like ours, pilots must use a higher power setting for safety reasons; plane engines don’t provide as much thrust at this elevation. The result is more noise because planes must fly closer to the ground for longer periods; nothing can change this physical fact.
Q. Who controls the planes flying overhead, and why do so many flights cross over noise-sensitive areas?
A. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations control the flight paths and aircraft routing into and out of every airport. Northern Colorado Regional Airport does not control traffic routing near the Airport or anywhere in the Denver airspace system. The airport can only encourage pilots on visual flight rules (VFR) flights to fly over underpopulated areas, but these areas are disappearing rapidly. Please call the FAA at 303-342-1100 with questions about aircraft operation in our airspace.
Q. Can Northern Colorado Regional Airport change plane routes?
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Federal Aviation Regulations control the flight paths and aircraft routing into and out of every airport. Northern Colorado Regional Airport does not control traffic routing near the Airport or anywhere in the Denver airspace system. Traffic arriving and departing Northern Colorado Regional Airport become part of this system and must mix with traffic arriving and departing DIA, Greeley, Rocky Mountain Metro, Front Range and other airports. Each aircraft is assigned altitudes and headings that will safely integrate them in the system. Aircraft are generally controlled by Denver Center or are visual flight rules (VFR) and regulated by Part 91 of the Federal Aviation Regulations. Changing one component alters other parts of the system; therefore, changes to our aircraft routes are significant. But again, the FAA determines them.
Q. There is an aircraft flying very low over my house/street/area. They are a nuisance/loud/etc… what can you do?
A. Most of the jet aircraft taking off and landing at Northern Colorado Regional Airport are following the established departure procedures or glide path for our instrument approach and must make certain altitude adjustments at certain points to perform a safe landing. An airplane’s ability to fly the designated approach or departure is what primarily governs the design of these procedures. An aircraft must be able to slow from its cruising speed to its landing speed during the approach, and it must maintain a certain minimum speed on departure to stay airborne. This limits a plane’s climb angle. Terrain avoidance and obstacle clearance are also primary concerns. The Airport does not have any enforcement authority over aircraft that violate regulations and fly too low. If you believe an aircraft is flying too low, please contact the Federal Aviation Administration at 1-800-847-380 and report the violation. FAA’s minimum altitude requirements for fixed wing aircraft are 500 feet for rural areas and 1,000 feet for highly populated urban areas. You can read more about the FAA’s regulations on low flying aircraft here. Also minimum altitude regulations DO NOT apply to helicopters and any aircraft associated with the military, State, local government, flight for life, or any fixed wing aircraft landings and takeoffs which may occur any where the pilot has permission and not only at airports.
However, that being said:
- Military aircraft complaints may be filed through their hotline at 1-800-424-9098 or their hotline page.
- State Patrol complaints may be sent through their form on their complaint page or directly emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org
- The three heliports in our area are MCR, 970-624-1050, Banner Fort Collins 970-810-6959, or McKee 970-820-6716
- To report non-compliant civilian fixed wing (airplane) operators call the FAA at 1-866-TELL-FAA (1-866-835-5322) or you can use their hotline page.
Please note the FAA’s minimums for reporting non-compliant aircraft:
- Identification – Can you identify the aircraft? Was it military or civil? Was it a high or low wing aircraft? What was the color? Did you record the registration number which appears on the fuselage or tail? (On U.S. registered aircraft, that number will be preceded with a capital “N” and it is required to be at least 12″ high unless it is an experimental aircraft). This must be recorded via photo and/or video and cannot be by automation (online tracking).
- Time and Place – Exactly when did the incident(s) occur? Where did this happen? What direction was the aircraft flying.
- Altitude – How high or low was the aircraft flying? On what do you base your estimate? Was the aircraft level with or below the elevation of a prominent object such as a tower or building?
If the aircraft operator is non-compliant with FAA regulations and also operating out of our Airport we will do our best to assist you in addressing the issue(s) that may be occurring. Please note, the FAA’s minimum reporting guidelines are critical in order to assist you.
Please keep in mind, there are a number of general aviation airports, privately owned airfields, and medical helipads around our Airport. We do not have any radar systems or tracking systems, as Airport staff are primarily tasked with the maintenance, safety, and security of the Airfield, where the FAA has oversight on aircraft movements. There are also 74 other public use airports within the state of Colorado including those located nearby in Boulder, Broomfield, Cheyenne WY, Erie, Greeley, Longmont, and Platte Valley. Saying this, not all aircraft flying in our area operate out of our Airport and there are many that have exemptions such as military & government aircraft, flight for life, medical helicopters, pipeline patrol, and wildfire operators.
There are also five helipads that are active around the airport, where many of the nighttime helicopter operations are operating from outside of the Airport. These locations include the Banner helipad in Fort Collins on Harmony Road, US Department of Energy located at the Western Power Authority just south of the Airport, Medical Center of the Rockies along I-25 and Rocky Mountain Boulevard, Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, and Century Helicopters at the old Downtown Fort Collins Airport.
Additionally, please note we are a public use facility and are open 24 hours 7 days a week, year wide and there are no restrictions on when aircraft may utilize the facility or when or where aircraft may operate in the air space, similar to how public roadways do not have time restrictions for access.
Another resource to determine the N-number of a non-compliant operator is a public tool Denver International Airport makes available Symphony PublicVue; however, this tool only works if the plane is using VFR or IFR and you know the time and date of the occurrence and is only 30% accurate on N-numbers: https://secure.symphonycdm.com/publicvue scroll up to our airport location and click on Replay. Input the date of the occurrence with approximate time and you should be able to identify the offending aircraft to accompany your photo and/or video evidence. NOTE: Identification from automation (Symphony PublicVue) is typically only 30% accurate on N-numbers; which is why you must visually (photo and/or video) confirm the infraction for the FAA to accept your report.