Oregon Aviation Watch Position Statement in Opposition to Flight Training in Washington County

May 17, 2012

By Miki Barnes

Flight training activity, fixed wing and helicopters, for domestic and foreign students, undermines and erodes the quality of life and livability of numerous residents due to the adverse impacts enumerated below.


The excessive noise caused by flight training contributes to a state of chronic stress which in turn can trigger negative health consequences including cardiovascular disease, heart failure, high blood pressure, strokes, and immune disorders. Studies have also shown that aviation noise can interfere with learning. Aviation noise during the night-time hours causes sleep disruption and disturbance. Medical literature is replete with articles addressing the negative effects of poor sleep on learning, health and optimal functioning.

Flight Training and Environmental Toxins

Flight training also increases the amount of toxic pollutants emitted into the air, soil and water. Oregon's Hillsboro Airport and other Washington County airports are prime examples of the laxity and negligence of government agencies in addressing aviation generated toxins.

The EPA ranks the Hillsboro Airport (HIO) 21st out of 20,000 U.S. airports placing it in the top one percent of all airports in the nation, in lead emissions. At present the Port of Portland, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ), and the aviation industry are doing nothing to monitor or reduce lead emissions generated by aviation activity at HIO or other airports in Washington County. For this reason alone, all flight training should be immediately discontinued in Washington County.

In addition, there are a number of other highly toxic substances released by general aviation activity including, but not limited to, benzene, particulate matter, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and a host of other toxic substances. A review of the Hillsboro Airport October 2009 Environmental Assessment Appendices (pg. C.3-2) on the third runway proposal revealed that the Port of Portland consultant, CH2MHILL, relied on data gathered from an air quality monitoring station 17 miles away, in SE Portland, to estimate carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ozone (O3), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5). In justification, they claimed that this was the nearest fully instrumented Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) air quality monitoring site to HIO.

Aviation Accidents and Security Concerns

Due to their limited experience, flight students are prone to more frequent accidents, thus they pose a significant danger to other aircraft as well as to people on the ground. Security is also an issue, especially because, unlike commercial airports, there are no mandated security requirements or Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screenings at general aviation airports.

Public Expense

The cost of subsidizing airport infrastructure is borne by the public. According to the 2005 Hillsboro Airport Master Plan, much of the future growth at HIO "will be driven by training operations (pg. 3-31)." As such it will primarily benefit for-profit aviation businesses. Many of the students are recruited from outside the country. The majority of the funding for these expansions is from commercial passenger fees which are added to ticket prices. Scarce state monies via Connect Oregon are also invested in building runways, taxiways, and other expansion projects for the training of foreign students. An example of the exorbitant cost associated with subsidizing this industry is contained in the 2005 HIO Master Plan, a document that projected that expansion costs at HIO would approach $127 million over the course of 20 years (Exhibit 7A).


Oregon Aviation Watch supports, encourages and appreciates international educational exchange programs that mutually benefit and enrich cultural understanding of the countries involved. Unfortunately, since the adverse impacts of pilot training far outweigh the benefits, the training of foreign students does not fall into this category.

Countries that choose to pursue and expand aviation should willingly shoulder the burden of the negative impacts that accompany this form of transport including the noise, pollution, safety, and security risks as well as the cost of building the infrastructure and the resultant property devaluation that typically occurs in the vicinity of an airport. U.S. residents in general and Oregon residents in particular, should not be required to fund airport infrastructure projects nor be subjected to the demise of their livability and quality of life on behalf of companies that train foreign pilots.

In the event that flight training companies wish to train U.S. citizens, this activity should be restricted to facilities that own the requisite acreage needed and also limited to aircraft and helicopters that use unleaded fuel. According to the 2005 Hillsboro Airport Master Plan (pg. 1-6) and communications with the FAA, local training operations include "touch and go" maneuvers that take place within four to five miles of the airport. In addition, other local training operations occur at designated locations within 20 miles of the airport. Oregon Aviation Watch endorses the view that flight training companies should own all the property needed to pursue this line of business including the land over which they train and beneath the airspace they use. No public funds should be invested in subsidizing these for-profit business enterprises.

Under no circumstances should Port authorities, the FAA or the aviation industry have the right to lay claim to the airspace over our homes, neighborhoods, recreational areas, farmland, and waterways to accommodate the flight training industry. In addition, the individual companies which profit from this enterprise should assume the cost of third party monitoring to determine the full impact of aviation generated noise and pollutants on the air, water, soil, human environment, and wildlife at all current or potential training facilities. All decisions related to flight training in a community should be subject to democratic process rather than government/corporate dictatorial decree.

And finally, it is incumbent upon federal, state, and local elected representatives to advocate on behalf of the citizenry to protect them from the intrusive noise, environmental degradation, safety and security risks, and the significant public cost, both economic and otherwise, that all too often accompanies the flight training industry.

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