Has The Third Runway Increased Noise In Burien?

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From our E-Mailbox comes this query from a Shorewood-area resident named Tony:

Photo of first airplane taking off from third runway courtesy Port of Seattle.

I was just wondering if you or any other readers were noticing an increase in plane noise today.

It seems pretty dramatic to me.

I live near the Shorewood Market and I’ve never really noticed plane traffic before but this morning my windows have already been rattled over a dozen times.

I’m more than a little afraid this might be what life with the third runway is like, but i never heard anything about a change to the flight paths as part of the new runway.

Heard anything?

We forwarded this email on to Perry Cooper, Media Officer for Sea-Tac Airport, who replied:

Yes, the new third runway did open this last weekend, so it’s expected some people will hear more noise than they’ve heard before.

The FAA is using it now.

We have had some people call in about the new runway and that’s expected when something new opens up.

If they have any questions on the runway, I’d direct them to our webpage at

Not fully satisfied with his answer, we went out and did our own unscientific testing today, and here are our personal observations:

  • The flight paths have definitely changed because of the third runway. If you disagree (or don’t believe us), go out and watch the approaches yourself and you’ll see that every single aircraft using it is now flying further west than ever before so they can line up to land (they have to in order to land!).
  • Aircraft flying further west are most certainly closer to areas previously unaffected by airplane noise. These areas were never flown over prior to this because aircraft never had to.
  • We watched and listened from numerous vantage points today and noticed a definite increase in sound due to aircraft using the third runway.
  • At one point, we even heard loud aircraft sounds in our office in Olde Burien, something we’ve never noticed before.

Sea-Tac Airport also has a website called “WebTrack” that shows, in real time, airplanes approaching to land, and if you watch this live map in action (it’s a pretty cool use of web technology) you can see how every single (animated, red) airplane using the third (western-most) runway are now flying over neighborhoods they didn’t before:

In this screenshot from Sea-Tac Airports live WebTrak website, you can clearly see how a landing airplane is flying further west to line up with the third runway.

In this screengrab from Sea-Tac Airport's "WebTrak" website, you can clearly see how a landing airplane is flying further west to line up with the third runway.

The Port of Seattle has a page devoted to Noise Abatement, but it’s pretty irrelevant because all studies were done before the third runway opened on Thursday, Nov. 20th.

Our thoughts on this are:

  • To truly test the third runway’s affect on local residents, a series of test fly-bys should have been conducted prior to its opening.
  • These fly-over tests should have been measured using standardized noise monitoring stations, and the average decibel levels should have been part of any environmental impact statement.
  • Were these noise tests actually done prior to the third runway’s opening? We don’t know for sure, but we lean towards being very skeptical that any noise studies were done prior to Nov. 20th.

So…have you noticed more noise since the third runway opened? If so, how big a difference? And what can (or should) be done about this?

Please Comment below, vote in our Poll on the right sidebar, or email us.

We promise to forward relevant emails and comments directly to the folks at Sea-Tac Airport, and we have a feeling we’ll be covering this issue for quite a while.

Residents can also contact the Port of Seattle’s Noise Abatement office directly by calling 206-433-5393 or toll-free 1-800-826-1147, day or night.

You can also request information or report aircraft noise through the Port’s online Noise Information Request form.

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19 Responses to “Has The Third Runway Increased Noise In Burien?”
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  2. Burienite says:

    Oh, yes. The noise has definately increased! I live in an apartment building on 152nd street and had pretty much blocked out the noise from the airport. However, since last Thursday, the noise has become almost unbearable. I cannot believe the difference it's made. It's really loud.

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  3. Deb Alverson says:

    Living off of 4th Ave SW, I haven't noticed any difference since the 3rd runway opened. We get a few flights a day that, when we're home, can be heard but it isn't anything that is hard to ignore. I don't have much sympathy though for those, like me, who choose to live near the airport. We know it's there, we know that planes make noise. It's just the way of live in our society. If I wasn't ready to accept that fact, I would not have moved to Burien.

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  4. Alcina says:

    Part of the reason people could be hearing more noise is not just that the 3rd Runway is now functional, noise travels further and is more prounced during various weather conditions such as cloudy days, which we obviously have more of now than in the summer. The Port of Seattle has this document that explains the impacts of weather on noise. http://tinyurl.com/5k4okz

    Scott, to answer your question about noise studies. Scores of noise studies we done before the 3rd Runway was ever built on the effects of the 3rd runway. That is how they knew which houses and how far away from the 3rd runway the houses needed to be mitigated (soundproofing added) against increased noise.

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  5. Alcina says:

    Thought I'd add this. If you want to learn about noise modeling and predicting of future noise, like the studies that were done before the 3rd Runway was built, you might want to interview these folks. http://www.greenbusch.com/ The state of such science these days is darn good at determining ahead of time things like the noise levels from the 3rd runway.

    Also, I think it is important to point out that the 3rd runway is pretty much just a foul weather runway, primarily only used at times of bad weather. Given that noise travels further during times of low clouds, cold weather, etc., it would make sense that on days with bad weather people are hearing the planes using that runway.

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  7. Miriam Bearse says:

    This is not just being used as a 'foul weather runway' despite what we are being told by Seatac. There was a reason that they tore down homes to make the Seatac park for the incoming flights- not that it was done well or properly- but it is clear that flying at that altitude over residences is neither safe (in terms of physical and emotional health) nor sane. We have to come together in the affected neighborhoods to address this and write our representatives to have something done about this – now.

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    • youliveinaflightpath says:

      yes, over 1 billion dollars was spent to use a runway for “foul weather”. You get a gold star!

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  8. Tom says:

    Since the 3rd runway has opened it has become the primary landing runway, whether the planes land from the north or south. We are a mile off the end of it on the south directly under the flight path.
    There is not an occupied dwelling under the flight path of the other two runways between 188th and 216th. I'm sure the north side is similar. Why they didn't do this for the third runway I do not know…they may yet if enough people complain.

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  9. T.W. says:

    My fiance and I bought a house near Gregory Heights Elementary in October. We first saw the house in September and closed on it in mid-October. During the several visits we made to the house, we noticed some noise from the planes, but not much. I work at home, however, and have noticed a dramatic increase since the third runway opened. It is much louder AND more frequent. It's really distracting and it's incredibly disappointing. We thought we'd found a great home in a great neighborhood with only minor plane noise, and now we don't feel that's the case. I can't imagine what residents closer to the airport must be experiencing!

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    • Tom says:

      I have lived on 1st avenue S since 2000 (due west of the control tower). It seems that I am located at about the center of the runway. Over the last month or so, I have noticed several prop driven planes traveling over my house during take-off, and just recently (the last couple of days), I started to hear passenger jets doing the same (yes this makes every window and door rattle!). This strikes me as strange, since I have seen several helicopters traveling in the East-West direction through the same airspace.
      I am now awakened at 6:00 AM and often hear aircraft noise well after 10:00PM.
      Prior to 2007, the only noise that we heard was the occasional motor thrust test done during maintenance.

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      • Erik Robbins says:

        We have been having very low flying Alaska Air jets taking off over our house in the last week or so. We live between Lake Burien Park and 152nd. Very loud. The prop planes (horizon air?) have increased as well.

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      • Ms Pp says:

        I have lived on the west side of the airport in Blakely Manor for 35 years. I did not buy a house near the airport and who would have guessed some fools would move all that dirt. We are not in the buy-out or insulation zone.
        Definitely the noise has increased. I can look out my window and see the planes taking off and landing since they removed the tree buffer that previously kept the sound down. Planes didn’t used to come over my house in the east-west direction, but they do now. Lets face it- we were lied to. The Port of Seattle apparently has so much money that they believe they can do what ever they want and get away with it. And they do.
        In additi0n to the noise, the aircraft fuel fumes are worse. We didn’t get any smell before the changes and now I can walk out in my yard and the air reeks of fuel.

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  10. CLR says:

    I live on South115th Street between 10th and 12th south. The Planes now fly directly over my house. Before I rarely noticed them (with the installation and soundproofing). Now it reminds me of the days back in the late 80's when I first bought my house. I just hope I'm not going to be one of those residents who end up falling through the crack because my house is one or two blocks too far north.

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  11. Pam says:

    In own a home on south 197th and believe me I notice alot more air noise than before the third runway was opened especially at night. I feel really sorry for you folks that live right under the flight paths. Also I feel the whole deal with closing the other runway and replacing it with the third runway whie it is being repaired (for 2 years) was a known fact but the public was not told.

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  12. Seatac Parking says:

    The third runway definitely has made the noise worse in Burien. It has to be at the highest levels in Seatac airport history.

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  13. Stan says:

    Has the 3rd runway increased noise in Burien?????
    Is Ed “too tall” Jones too tall?,*lol*
    Alcina, I`m honestly not trying to offend you here but if you really believe that the 3rd run(e)way is only being used primarily during foul weather you have your head in the sand..
    That run(e)way is being used full time, just look north during the night see all the planes staged now,, looks like a freaking invasion. I know they say it`s only until the others are repaired over the course of the next few years,,, but that`s nothing but a crock of you know what. They have lied since day one about that runway and anybody that voted for it was and absolute freaking IDIOT, pure and simple,,an IDIOT.
    And anybody that thinks that 3rd runeway will sit idle except for emergencies and such after the other runways are repaired after spending all those millions to build it are,, well, look up a few lines. I`m getting pissed here now,, I best go before my anger over the 3rd runeway comes back to haunt me,,I was fired up enough back then..

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  14. Jack says:

    The air traffic is on different flight paths now, I notice. We live in Seahurst and get 400 bombardiers over all the time. Luckily, they are quiet and it is not constant. I have noticed that there are military jets/helicopters going over us now, too.

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