Acts of Congress Relevant to Airport Noise Control

This list provides an historical overview of Congressional action on airport noise and key legislation on aviation and airports. Acts are listed in chronological order, from earliest to latest. (Updated March 22, 2019)

Air Commerce Act (1926) [44 Stat. 568]
This act was the beginning of regulation of civil aviation, requested by the aviation industry. It was intended to provide the legal basis for growth of aviation. (See "Air Commerce Act of 1926," Columbia Law Review 27:990 (1927); "Civil Aeronautics: Legislative History of the Air Commerce Act of 1926," U.S. Govt. Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1928)

Civil Aeronautics Act (1938) [52 Stat. 973]
This act created a single aviation statute; until this act federal aviation policy was found in several airmail statutes and the Air Commerce Act. The act created the Civil Aeronautics Authority, later (1940) the Civil Aeronautics Board, the predecessor to the Federal Aviation Administration (created by the Federal Aviation Act of 1958).

Federal Airport Acts
Beginning in 1946, through 1966. Repealed in the Airport and Airway Development Act of 1970.

Airways Modernization Act (1957) [Pub.L. 85-133]

Federal Aviation Act (1958) [Pub.L. 85-726]
This act is the basic aviation policy and has been amended often since 1958. (For a complete list of amendments see under "Federal Aviation Act" in Shepard's Acts and Cases by Popular Names. In its original provisions the Act gave the FAA responsibility for all aspects of aviation but did not specifically authorize the FAA to establish noise abatement rules.

Aircraft Noise Abatement Act (1968) [Pub.L. 90-411]
Authorized the FAA to prescribe standards for the measurement of aircraft noise and to establish regulations to abate noise. This Act was modified by the Noise Control Act of 1972, in which the Congress required the FAA to consult with the EPA in prescribing standards and regulations. (Codified in 49 U.S.C. 44715.)

National Environmental Policy Act (1969) [Pub.L. 91-190]
This was the first comprehensive federal legislation on environmental policy and programs (it created the Environmental Protection Agency). It has been amended repeatedly since 1969 to refine policy and create new programs. (Codified in 42 U.S.C 4321-4345.)

Airport and Airway Development Act (1970) [Pub.L. 91-258]
Provided methods for significant 10-year funding of airport development but not noise abatement programs. Program expired Sept. 30, 1980.

Airport and Airway Revenue Act (1970) [Pub.L. 91-258]
This Act created the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, with revenues derived from various taxes on airport activities.

Noise Control Act (1972) [Pub.L. 92-574, sec. 1]
This act amended the Federal Aviation Act to involve the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the regulation of airport noise. "The Congress declares that it is the policy of the United States to promote an environment for all Americans free from noise that jeopardizes their health or welfare." The Act was passed because Congress was dissatisfied with FAA progress in noise abatement. Under the Act the FAA is required to hold public hearings on aircraft noise regulations proposed by the EPA but is not required to adopt the regulations. (Codified in 42 U.S.C. 4901 - 4918 and 49 U.S.C. 44715.)

Following the Act the EPA created the Office of Noise Abatement and Control, which was defunded in 1981 and has not been funded since then (see "Dormant Noise Control Act and Options to Abate Noise Pollution", 1991, by Sidney Shapiro, Prof. of Law at the University of Kansas. Several bills in the House of Representatives have attempted to restore funding, but not have passed the Congress (see bills).

Airport Development Acceleration Act (1973) [Pub.L. 93-44]
Amends Airport and Airway Development Act of 1970. Prohibits a "head" tax on airline passengers by state and local governments.

Airport and Airway Development Act Amendments (1976) [Pub.L. 94-353]
Amends Airport and Airway Development Act of 1970 to include authority to grant funds for land acquisition for noise abatement programs. It also increased the federal governmenet's matching share of airport development projects for large airports from 50% to 75%.

Airline Deregulation Act (1978) [Pub.L. 95-504]

Quiet Communities Act (1978) [Pub.L. 95-609]
This act provides for coordination of federal research and activities in noise control, amending portions of the Noise Control Act of 1972. The Act was intended to speed up FAA response to noise regulations proposed by the EPA and requires the FAA to provide the public with a detailed analysis of EPA proposals. It also authorized FAA funds for development of noise abatement plans around airports. Eligible projects included construction of barriers and acoustical shielding, sound-proofing of buildings, and acquisition of land and air easements to achieve compatibility with noise standards.

Aviation Safety and Noise Abatement Act (1979) [Pub.L. 96-193]
Title I of this Act gives the FAA authority to issue regulations on "air noise compatibility planning" and to make funds available for airport projects contained in an approved noise compatibility program. These regulations have been published by the FAA in 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 150. The Act also required the Secretary of Transportation to establish federal standards for measuring and assessing noise impacts on residences near airports. (Codified in 49 U.S.C. 47501-47510.)

Airport and Airway Improvement Act (1982) [Pub.L. 97-248]
Title V articulates a number of significant policies on airport expansion and mandates that airport planning be formulated "on the basis of overall transportation needs and coordinated with other transportation planning" (Sec. 502). The Act established the Airport Improvement Program, a fund from which the FAA makes grants for airport development. (Codified in 49 USC 47101 - 47131.)

Aviation Safety Commission Act (1986) [Pub.L. 99-500, 99-591]

National Parks Overflights Act (1987) [Pub.L. 100-91]
The Act required a variety of studies of noise in national parks created by overflights, as well as a National Park Service report to the Congress, which was issued in July 1995: Report on the Effects of Aircraft Overflights on the National Parks System. The Act also required the FAA to develop a plan for the management of air traffic in the air space above the Grand Canyon in order to substantially restore the natural quiet of the park. (Codified at 16 U.S.C. 1a-1 note (1992).)

Airport and Airway Safety and Capacity Expansion Act (1987) [Pub.L. 100-223]
Title I amends the 1982 Airport and Airway Improvement Act, adding policy statements encouraging increases in airport capacity for both passengers and cargo. (See 49 U.S.C. 47101.)

Airport and Airway Revenue Act (1987) [Pub.L. 100-223. sec. 401 et seq.]

Aviation Safety Research Act (1988) [Pub.L. 100-501]

Noise Reduction Reimbursement Act (1989) [Pub.L. 101-71]
Allows federal payment for implementation of an FAA-approved airport noise compatibility program.

Airport Noise and Capacity Act (1990) [Pub.L. 101-508, title IX, subtitle D, secs. 9301-9309]
This Act established a "national policy on aviation noise". Its main feature is to require that by the year 2000 all jet aircraft at civilian airports be stage-3 aircraft (aircraft that incorporate the latest technology for supressing jet-engine noise). The Act directed the FAA to develop a program for reviewing airport noise and access restrictions for stage-2 and 3 aircraft (implemented in 14 CFR Part 161). The bill was slipped into a "must pass" omnibus budget bill in the Senate in the last days of the Congress, thus precluding debate in the House. (Codified in 49 U.S.C. 47521-47533.)

Aviation Safety and Capacity Expansion Act (1990) [Pub.L. 101-508, title IX, subtitle B]
Like the above bill, the ASCEA bill was made part of an omnibus budget bill.

Airport and Airway Safety, Capacity, Noise Improvement, and Intermodal Transportation Act (1992) [Pub.L. 102-581]

Airport Improvement Program Temporary Extension Act (1994) [Pub.L. 103-260, 103-429]

Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (1994) [Pub.L. 103-305]

Transportation Appropriations Act (1996) [Pub.L. 104-50]
This Act exempted the FAA from federal procurement and personnel regulations (Secs. 347 and 348). This Act was part of a legislative program to make the FAA an independent agency, effectively free from "civilian" political control (presently the FAA is part of the Department of Transportation). Another, more important component of this program, H.R. 2276, the Federal Aviation Revitalization Act of 1995, would have recreated the FAA as a fully independent agency governed by a Federal Aviation Board. The bill failed in the 104th Congress; it passed the House (voice vote) but languished in committee in the Senate.

Federal Aviation Reauthorization Act (1996) [Pub.L. 104-264]
Title II mandated broad reform of the FAA by "establish[ing] a more autonomous and accountable Administration within the Department of Transportation" (Sec. 222). Sec. 230 created a Management Advisory Council to be appointed from outside government by the president. The 15-member council has the duty to comment, recommend modification, or submit dissenting views regarding FAA management, policy, spending, funding, and regulatory matters affecting the aviation industry. The FAA Administrator is required to include in any submission to Congress, the Secretary of Transportation, or the general public, and in any submission for publication in the Federal Register, a description of the comments, recommended modifications, and dissenting views received from the Council, together with the reasons for any differences between the views of the Council and the views or actions of the Administrator. The aviation industry is thus given special status within FAA policymaking. Sec. 401 eliminated the FAA's explicit mandate since 1958 to promote aviation (see 49 USC 40101(d)). Until this Act the FAA had the so-called "dual mandate" of maintaining safety and promoting aviation. However, the House Conference Report on this bill made clear that, despite changes in the language of the statute, the Congress was not requiring real change (see House Report 104-848). Amendments: Pub.L. 105-102 (1997) (49 USC 106, 46301, 47117); Pub.L. 105-277 (1998) (49 USC 47114); Pub.L. 106-6 (1999) (49 USC 47117); Pub.L. 106-181 (2000) (49 USC 40101).

Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century ("AIR 21") (2000) [Pub.L. 106-181]
This act covers a multitude of aviation issues and commits huge sums of money for investment in airports, especially small general-aviation airports.

National Parks Air Tour Management Act (2000) [Pub.L. 106-81, title VIII]
This act makes the FAA, rather than the National Park Service, the principal authority to deal with the problem of noise from airports near national parks and overflight noise from commercial touring aircraft (particularly helicopters).

Vision 100—Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act (2003) [Pub.L. 108-176]
This act includes a large variety of changes, including "streamlining" of environmental impact analyses (Title III) and several noise-related provisions (Secs. 160, 322 - 326, 825). Section 189 limits spending funds on noise mitigation to areas in which the noise due to aircraft is at least 65 dB annual average; the limit lasts until 2007. As a result, airports will not be able to get federal money for mitigation if they choose to define the "noisy" threshold less than 65 dB. (This provision was slipped into the bill by Sen. Trent Lott without debate.)

FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 [Pub.L. 112-95]
Authorizes appropriations through FY 2014, including funds for airport planning and development and noise compatibility planning programs. The Congress finally passed the bill in early 2012 after being unable to do so since 2007. In the intervening five years more than 20 short-term authorization acts were passed, each one side-stepping all substantive issues, notably labor issues. The Act finally requires that jets weighing less than 75,000 pounds must meet stage-3 noise levels (Sec. 506). Such aircraft had been exempt from stage-3 controls since passage of the Airport Noise and Capacity Act in 1990 (see above).

Consolidated Appropriation Act of 2014 [Pub.L. 113-76]
This omnibus spending bill includes a requirement that the FAA develop regulations related to the impact of helicopter operations on the quality of life of Los Angeles County residents. (This requirement was authored by Sen. Diane Feinstein and included as Sec. 119D of the Senate's transportation appropriations bill, S. 1243. This Senate bill was included in the House Consolidated Appropriations bill, H.R. 3547, as Division L: Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2014.)

Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2015 [Pub.L. 114-55]
In July 2015 the House majority leader decided to delay consideration of a new FAA reauthorization bill until the end of September, the end of the federal government's fiscal year. Accordingly, on Sept. 25 H.R. 3614 was introduced, providing reauthorization of funds for the FAA for six months starting Oct. 1, 2015, when the existing FAA reauthorization expired, and extending certain provisions of Vision 100 (2003, see above) and the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (see above).

FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016 [Pub.L. 114-190]
Also known as the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2016, this legislation funds the FAA through Sept. 30, 2017 and was intended by Congressional leaders as an interim funding measure to permit consideration of a new long-term reauthorization bill.

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 [Pub.L. 114-328, Sec. 341(b)]
Sec. 341(b) (Performance-Based Navigation) amends Sec. 213(C) of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (see above), placing conditions on the FAA's use of "categorical exclusions" when changing air traffic patterns to and from airports. Federal agencies have the power to exclude from an environmental impact assessment any potential environmental impact that the agency, based on its experience, believes will not reach the level of a "significant impact". This was the approach the FAA has used in configuring new flight paths to and from airports as part of its new NextGen control system. The new limitations on the FAA was a response to a fierce outcry from communities newly exposed to airliner noise as a consequence of NextGen implementation.

FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 [Pub.L. 115-254]
Signed into law Oct. 5, 2018. Title I, Subtitle D "Airport Noise and Environmental Streamlining" (sections 171-192 of the bill), contains a dozen provisions dealing with aircraft noise, all of which mandate study or research (much of which the FAA is already required to perform) but lack mandates for implementation. See for ex. Sec. 175 Addressing community noise concerns; Sec. 176 Community involvement in FAA NextGen projects located in metroplexes; Sec. 179 Airport Noise Mitigation; Sec. 189 Study of potential health and economic impacts of overflight noise.