Skydivers over Colordado

A High-Altitude Look at the Legal Battle for “Quiet Skies” over Denver

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Although a world without noise is unimaginable, the noise level beyond human tolerance can be hazardous. Regular exposure to annoying noises can have serious health consequences such as hearing impairment, hypertension, heart disease, and sleep disorders. Besides, high levels of noise angers most resulting in behavioral issues.

The main source of annoying noise in urban areas is from heavy industries, highway traffic, aircrafts, railways, and other industrial activities. The town planners have the responsibility to allow developmental projects such as construction of airports and railroads only in locations that are far from residential areas. If they fail, in the long run, there can be serious opposition from citizens who are affected by the annoying noise.

A classic example is the ongoing case between a citizens’ forum and a popular skydiving company, Mile-Hi Skydiving which operates just north of Denver in Longmont, Colorado. During steep vertical climbs, the skydiving planes make enormous noise beyond the typical tolerance limit. This has angered the local Longmont residents who went for legal redressal. The plaintiff for the residents, Kimberly Gibbs, represented the case with all earnestness by emphasizing the ill effects of noise from skydiving planes.

It is noteworthy that the citizens’ forum, Quiet Skies, lost the case at lower levels against the skydiving company and it appears that they have only narrow or no chance of prevailing at higher level. Also, now it appears that the complaints from Quiet Skies have no impact against Mile-Hi. Eventually, it may even lead to the dropping of the case.

The plaintiff has been speaking against the operation of flights from Vance Brand Municipal Airport used by the skydiving company for almost six years. Initially it was communicated to the City Council through letters, and later by filing a lawsuit.

It is to be noted that Quiet Skies complaints against the noise produced by skydiving planes are not a new phenomenon. Such complaints have been received from aggrieved citizens right from the time the company started skydiving operations from the airport in 1955.

In fact, not all citizens are against the sport. They feel that only the noise from skydiving planes is intolerable. Many residents are of the opinion that they can handle the recreation company being there, but they hate the noisy planes they use for skydiving. They have nothing against skydivers, provided they stay in their own space and do not disturb the citizens by using noisier airplanes for skydiving.

Initially, only few people were raising objections about the noise produced by the planes. That was the case in both instances, namely those who defended the skydiving operations and those who complained against the noise.

Some prescient pilots rightly anticipated that any developmental projects proposed in the vicinity of the airport would draw complaints from local residents due to the noise from planes. However, for unknown reasons, the development was approved by authorities. Once the area developed with more homes and business establishments, complaints started pouring in without any solution in sight to solve the problem.

It is a known fact that skydiving planes produce loud noise that can be heard for miles as they climb steeply from the vicinity of the airport. At the same time, there are other sources such as local traffic, lawn mowers, barking dogs, and other human activities that also produce noise that the residents have learned to live with. The actual complaints received from citizens regarding the sound from skydiving planes may be low since many aggrieved residents do not come forward to complain.

There is no doubt that tandem skydiving is a vital attraction in any city. It draws people and business in large numbers. As a result, tourism, wealth, and prosperity of people living in that area increase phenomenally. In the absence of other adventure activities in and around the city, the presence of a skydiving facility will be of great recreational value.

Even in a winning situation, Mile-Hi Skydiving should make efforts to bring down the noise levels in whichever way possible. A possible solution will be to replace the existing aircraft with technologically advanced planes that emit less noise or climbing to altitude with a different pattern or at a gentler pace. Everyone wants to maintain a positive view of skydiving operations with the populous of their local city.

Everyone knows that a noiseless world can never be a possibility. As a technologically advanced nation, America has always had a close relationship with the aviation sector. This relationship will continue to exist in all airports. Therefore, all measures should be taken to reduce the noise level from adventure activities and others to ensure the welfare of the citizens living in the vicinity.

Also, those who operate recreational business such as skydiving centers should bear in mind that their recreational business shouldn’t infringe the citizens’ right for peaceful and healthy life wherever they live. On the other hand, whenever a dispute arises on issues such as the noise produced by businesses, the concerned parties should accept the ruling of the authorities.

It is still unsure which direction the Colorado Supreme Court will rule as this case proceeds, however, the coexistence of both parties in the most amicable way should be the primary goal in its rulings.

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