Madrid suburb wages noise war on overflying aircraft

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Like Don Quixote, the Spanish literary character who attacked windmills, residents of the northern Madrid suburb of Tres Cantos appear to be waging a futile battle against the excessive noise from overflying airplanes landing and taking off from the city's busy Barajas airport.

14 February 2008

MADRID - Like Don Quixote, the Spanish literary character who attacked windmills, residents of the northern Madrid suburb of Tres Cantos appear to be waging a futile battle against the excessive noise from overflying airplanes landing and taking off from the city's busy Barajas airport.

Diego Chillón, a local surgeon, is determined to do something about it. Armed with his sonometer, a noise-measuring device, he monitors daily the air traffic over Tres Cantos. Every day he sends 200 complaints to Spanish airport operator AENA.

"There goes one of the big planes," he said. "Listen to the noise it makes." Before one plane has finished flying past, another one appears overhead.

Even though Chillón has signed all of the complaints himself, some 150 families have joined in the campaign as well. The neighbours, who form part of a group called Afectados por el Riesgo y el Ruido de los Aviones (Those affected by the risk and noise of planes), was founded in 2005, when two new landing strips were opened at Barajas Airport. The new strips changed the takeoff and landing routes of the planes, turning the relatively quiet neighbourhood into a decidedly noisy one.

"We no longer eat outdoors in summer. The children bathing in the swimming pool play at guessing which airline [is flying over]," said another neighbour.

With the help of the sonometer, Chillón records noise levels that reach 80 decibels, much higher than the 52 decibels recorded by AENA. Since the neighbours of Tres Cantos disagree with AVNA's readings, they decided to take matters into their hands and carry out their own measurements.

AENA claims, however, that Chillón's readings have no validity. "We have no way of knowing if the sonometer is calibrated and placed in the right place in order for the reading to be valid," said AENA.

The airport operator states that the planes that land and take off at the airport aren't supposed to fly over any urban centres. If that were the case, such airlines would be sanctioned.

Even though the residents of Tres Cantos may strongly disagree, AENA doesn't consider Tres Cantos a community affected by overflying planes from Barajas Airport. According to AENA, the suburb doesn't even form part of a nearby area where noise levels during the day and night reach 65 and 55 decibels, respectively.

[Copyright EL PAÍS / ELENA G. SEVILLANO 2008]

Subject: Spanish news

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