by Matt Frazier

Star Telegram (Fort Worth, Texas)

January 15, 2008

FORT WORTH — Somebody thinks Cowtown is loud.

Fort Worth is so noisy that the city is last on a Web site’s 2007 “noisy dozen” list.

Noise Free America of Madison, Wis. — founded by Ted Rueter in 2001 and claiming members nationwide — singled out one clamorous Fort Worth villain for special attention.

It’s not the hundreds of natural gas rigs drilling into the Barnett Shale. It’s not trains rumbling across the city nor high-powered stereos in tricked-out automobiles, although they were mentioned.

It’s model airplanes.

More specifically, it’s model airplanes flown by members of the Greater Southwest Aero Modelers club.

“We’ve been getting e-mails from people in Fort Worth complaining about this crazy model airplane club,” Rueter said. “We are trying to get people in Fort Worth to get more agitated and involved. Otherwise, nothing is going to change.”

Among the complainers is Keith White, a former club member, according to a news release from Noise Free America.

Resident Santos Carbajal was also named as an opponent of the planes.

“It’s annoying,” he said in an interview. “It’s loud enough to wake you up in the morning.”

The group has been flying planes for decades in a field northeast of Loop 820 and Interstate 30 in east Fort Worth.

Across the street from the field is Temple Christian School, which does not have a problem with the planes.

Neither do the half-dozen households called by the Star-Telegram last week as club members flew acrobatic, gas-powered planes — including one with a 90-inch wingspan — through loops, banks and turns in the sky.

Some found it hard to believe that anyone had complained.

“Somebody is an idiot,” said Gary Joiner, who lives nearby. “I like it. I get out there and watch them.”

Ashley Landers said she can hear the planes but is not bothered.

“I would have thought that someone would have complained about the plant that is between the flying field and here,” she said. “They have trucks running until midnight — not that they are that loud, either, but they make more noise than the planes.”

But that does not reflect the true sound situation, said White, who is listed in a Noise Free America news release as a Fort Worth activist.

“They recently started using leaf-blower motors,” said White, who used to belong to the club. “The mufflers they have don’t work, or they are simply removed.”

White, who lives several miles from the field in Pantego, also says that the planes are dangerous and that they’ve crashed near Temple Christian. He said he resigned from the club because of safety concerns.

School head Stan Brooke confirmed that there was a plane crash at the school’s soccer field about 13 years ago but said the club now has a strict rule against flying over the campus.

“It is audible, but not to the point where it interferes with class work,” Brooke said. “They are good neighbors.”

White has a personal grudge against the club, said Aero Modelers President Tim Lovett, a former Hurst police officer who now owns Crash Dynamics, a motor vehicle accident reconstruction company in Hurst.

The club does its own sound-level testing, according to Lovett, and the loudest model plane engine is about 90 decibels. That is loud enough to cause permanent ear damage with prolonged exposure at close range, according to online hearing associations. Not all club members have met the noise-limit guidelines set by the club’s parent organization, the Academy of Model Aeronautics, but Lovett said they are working on that.

In October 2006, White asked the Fort Worth City Council to impose a noise restriction on the club. Council members took no action. Fort Worth police officer John Choyce also took no action after investigating the club last year.

“I didn’t find anything to report,” Choyce said.

Model planes or no model planes, many in Fort Worth and its suburbs need to be more courteous when it comes to noise, said another person listed on the Noise Free America release, Jim Parnell, former mayor of Westworth Village, a small suburb near Naval Air Station Fort Worth.

“We have to fly jets, train pilots and be ready for combat. That sort of noise doesn’t bother me. That’s a necessary thing,” he said. “But if you are in your house, and I’m playing my music in my car so loudly that you can hear it, I’m actually invading your house.

“That infringes on your right to a quiet life,” Parnell said. “It’s rude.”