British Columbia

Vancouver airport noise waking up its neighbours

A $12-million facility at Vancouver airport, designed to dampen the sound of aircraft engine tests, isn't being used enough to keep the noise from waking up area residents.

YVR's overnight engine tests can sound like a 'weed whacker in your yard'

A facility designed to minimize overnight noise at Vancouver International Airport is not working effectively, CBC News has learned from residents who say they are still being woken up.

Two months ago, the airport opened what it calls a Ground Run-up Enclosure (GRE), a facility near the south terminal intended to block noise emitted while propeller engines are being repaired and tested.

But construction of the $12-million enclosure hasn’t prevented loud noise from reaching residents who live about one kilometre away, across the middle arm of the Fraser River, and it's not clear why.

A computer-generated animation shows Vancouver airport's Ground Run-up Enclosure. (Vancouver Airport Authority)

"It's like having a weed whacker in your yard, full power — constantly," said Neil Filipek.

Filipek is a pilot and a former member of Richmond's Airport Noise Task Force, the group that recommended the construction of the GRE.

While he thinks the GRE is a step in the right direction, Filipek said a recent overnight complaint that his wife made to the airport revealed that some engine tests, called run-ups, are being performed outside the enclosure.  

"My wife asked why the ground run-up enclosure wasn't being used and they said, ‘It wasn't scheduled,’" said Filipek.

Most overnight run-ups outside GRE

Records supplied to CBC News by the Vancouver Airport Authority show that in the first five weeks of the GRE's operation, between Jan. 24 and Feb.29, there were a total of 642 engine tests, 119 of which — less than 20 per cent — were performed in the enclosure.

A little fewer than half of those tests, 54, were conducted overnight.

Not all engine run-up tests are loud, said airport spokeswoman Anne Murray.

Area resident Neil Filipek says there's more noise from the GRE than was promised. (CBC)

"There's all different kind of run-ups," Murray told CBC News. "So, some of the run-ups is just turning the engine on, it's called idle."

The noisiest propeller-engine tests are supposed to be done inside the GRE.

CBC News recorded loud engine test noise in Filipek's neighbourhood at 1:30 a.m. last week, but it was not clear if the noise was leaking out of the enclosure or if it was from a run-up being done outside its walls.

Noise complaints will only grow as the weather gets better and windows in the neighbourhood remain open overnight, said Filipek.

"I think that's when it's going to tell whether or not the Ground Run-up Enclosure is doing its job," he said.

A 24-hour noise complaint hotline is operated by the airport, which said it has received few complaints, but promised to crack down on violators.


With files from the CBC's Eric Rankin