Between the hours of 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., about 44 flights per hour make low-level approaches to Haneda International Airport in Tokyo. While descending over Shinagawa Ward, their elevation drops below 300 meters, actually lower than the 332.9-meter height of Tokyo Tower.
"With every noise increase of 3 decibels, the amount felt by the human body is doubled (according to testimony to the Diet), and it's safe to say the volume might even be twice that level," says Hideaki Kuroda, a member of the "Haneda Problem Lawsuit Group."
Kuroda's organization of residents has initiated a legal action over the noise the low-flying planes are generating, reports Spa (Sept 8-15).
Another group member, residing in Shibuya Ward, tells the magazine, "I live on the 5th floor, but the planes are fairly loud even with the windows shut. My grandson, who's in high school, says he's been having difficulty concentrating on his studies since the new route opened.
The new route, which was initiated from the end of March, is said to be particularly disruptive to the teleworkers who have been staying home due to the pandemic.
"My apartment building is directly beneath the flight path, and planes fly just above it," a salaryman in his 30s remarks. "We're on the 18th floor, so the distance from the aircraft to the building is about 300 meters. I've been teleworking from home and on days with a southward wind, the rumbling noise emitted by the planes is really bad."
Nor is noise the sole complaint.
"In August 2014, a slab of ice dropped off the body of a passenger jet and tore through the roof of a factory," said Kuroda. "If it had fallen on a residence, it may have caused injuries or deaths.
"What's more, it is well known that the descent angle for the approach on the new route, 3.8 degrees, is sharper than at other world airports. This makes it more susceptible to human error during the so-called 'critical 11 minutes' (which are three minutes for takeoffs and eight minutes for landings). On the three-minute takeoff for instance, jets pass directly over a petrochemical plant in neighboring Kawasaki. If a hot fragment were to drop into it from a plane, or if the entire plane were to crash, it might start a conflagration that would be nearly impossible for human firefighters to extinguish."
Aside from safety, owners are concerned over the noise's effect on property values. "There are various reasons why real estate prices fluctuate, and there's no simple way to calculate their value," says Shuji Takeuchi, an analyst of residential properties. "For example in 1994, the Federal Aviation Administration in the U.S. issued a report that said the value of homes in the vicinity of Los Angeles International Airport that were affected by noise fell in value by 1.3%.
"From around 2013, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, by pooling income from landing fees and tax revenues on jet fuel into a special fund for airport maintenance facilities, was able to stashed away about a trillion yen," says a knowledgeable reporter. "It's believed that before the ministry lost control over use of the funds at its own discretion it used them for expansion projects at Haneda Airport. Among the beneficiaries were amakudari (retiring bureaucrats who were placed in lucrative second careers)."
Spa posed its query about the new route to a ministry staff member, who replied in typically vague fashion, "The new route hasn't yet been finalized. During the remainder of the current fiscal year we will examine the merits and demerits and consider how to deal with it."
"Actually," says Kuroda, "from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., the flights to Haneda fly a counter-clockwise pattern from the Futtsu promontory in Chiba to Tokyo Bay. If they were to simply do this during daytime hours, there'd be no need for the new route, and the noise problem would be resolved."© Japan Today