Frequently Asked Questions


Who controls the planes in the sky?
All aircraft movements are solely controlled through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) National Airspace System, including the design and implementation of flight procedures and corridors. The Lee County Port Authority (LCPA) does not control or regulate flight patterns or aircraft movements.

What is a Noise Study?
By way of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 150, Airport Noise Compatibility Planning, the FAA offers airport sponsors a way to address aircraft overflights on the surrounding communities via a Noise Study. A Noise Study allows airports to determine ways to reduce aircraft overflights/noise over residential and other noise-sensitive areas. It also aids in the determination and planning of compatible and incompatible land areas surrounding an airport. This is a voluntary effort undertaken by airports under FAA guidelines. LCPA has completed multiple noise studies in the past, with the most recent one completed in 2013. More information on LCPA’s noise study efforts can be found on our 14 CFR Part 150 page.

Why are your aircraft overflight operational measures voluntary and not mandatory like other airports?
The FAA has established the 65 Day-Night Average Sound Level (DNL) noise contour as the lowest threshold for the determination of compatible and incompatible land uses with aircraft operations. Per, LCPA’s most recent Noise Study (2013), Southwest Florida International Airport’s (RSW) 65 DNL contour is nearly 100 percent on airport property and does not impact residential or other noise-sensitive areas. As such, the FAA has approved RSW’s recommended operational measures for overflight mitigation from the 2013 Noise Study to be pursued on a voluntary basis only.

What should prospective home buyers in Lee County do before purchasing property?
Prospective home buyers should always contact the LCPA Aircraft Overflight Program prior to a home purchase when there are concerns regarding aircraft overflights. By visiting our Submitting Aircraft Overflight Comment/Inquiry webpage, LCPA can help you learn about the flight patterns, peak travel months and potential impact areas from aircraft operations. Prospective home buyers should also assess the site and monitor flight patterns associated with LCPA airports. More information for prospective home buyers can be found on our Tips for Prospective Homebuyers/Real Estate webpage.

When do most planes depart or arrive at RSW?
Like most airports around the U.S., aircraft can access RSW at any time, day or night. However, scheduled service at RSW typically begins at approximately 6 a.m. EST and ends between 12-1 a.m. EST. Each airline is responsible for their own schedule, including late night and early morning flights, which may be based on convenience for their customers. The heaviest daily travel periods are early to mid-morning and mid-afternoon to early evening, however, that is always subject to change based on customer demand.

Why do so many planes take off and land in the same direction?
As a safety factor, aircraft arrive and depart into the wind to maximize aerodynamic lift. FAA Air Traffic Control determines the operational direction based on wind direction, wind speed, weather conditions and airfield conditions such as available runways. At RSW, approximately 80 percent of takeoffs annually are to the northeast with landings from the southwest and 20 percent of takeoffs annually are to the southwest with landings from the northeast and east, but this is always subject to change based on the reasons listed above.

Over what areas do planes most often fly?
Aircraft tend to fly within broad airspace corridors, as directed by the FAA. All residents living within Lee County have the possibility of seeing arriving/departing aircraft. The areas impacted most by aircraft operations are mainly those in the noise zones and off the extended centerline for each runway and near the airspace corridors/flight patterns. However, how and to what frequency any particular land area is impacted depends on the wind/weather, the runway in use, the type of aircraft, aircraft engine characteristics, local air traffic conditions and relative distance from the airport.

How close to the airport may residential areas develop?
During the 2013 Noise Study, LCPA established Noise Overlay Zones that are now used in Lee County’s zoning process. Lee County currently prohibits noise-sensitive development within Noise Zone B (60 DNL Noise Contour), which is stricter than the FAA’s 65 DNL Noise Contour limit. Additionally, land areas developed within acceptable noise zones (Zones C & D) are subject to the noise notification policy outlined in Sec. 34-1104 of the Lee County Land Development Code.

What do overflight comments represent to the airport? To the public?

    • Airport: LCPA staff maintains a sense of public sentiment through the administration of our Aircraft Overflight Program. Furthermore, we utilize this point of contact for public education purposes and attempts to discern between the realities and the subjective nature of overflight comments. Centralized communications with the public about aircraft overflights also allows the opportunity to identify problem areas and, sometimes, an opportunity to correct something before it becomes a greater issue. Further, while the airport cannot regulate aircraft movement and flight patterns, overflight comments allow LCPA to advocate on behalf of the surrounding communities and coordinate with local FAA regarding aircraft overflight activity.
    • Public: The public wants to have comments documented and sometimes seeks more information. Most of all, the public seeks change. People are concerned about how aircraft are routed near their homes. At times, a comment may alert LCPA staff of an unusual overflight event(s) and/or a recurring problem that can be investigated and resolved. However, an overflight comment doesn’t always bring about an individual's desired change. The Aircraft Overflight Program provides citizens the ability to express their concerns about aircraft overflights at RSW and FMY, which are then shared with local FAA. People file comments for different reasons and have different expectations. The Aircraft Overflight Program tries to be responsive to the public and will take action when appropriate and when able. Some individuals may be frustrated when they learn changes cannot be made. Others are satisfied they have "gone on record" and voiced their concerns.

Why doesn't RSW have a curfew or rules similar to those at other airports?
As a result of the 1990 Noise and Capacity Act, no new use-restrictions at airport facilities can be implemented without a thorough demonstration of need, a detailed analysis of the restriction and its consequences, and approval by the FAA. Based on the most recent 2013 Noise Study, which was approved by the FAA, the level of overflight/noise exposure associated with aircraft operations at RSW does not warrant access restrictions or curfews. Like most airports in the United States, RSW is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

My house is not supposed to be under the flight path, so why do I get overflights?
Aircraft approaching/departing RSW will usually follow normal patterns and procedures under ideal conditions. However, the tracks aircraft follow are fluid and adaptable based on many conditions, including but not limited to, wind/weather conditions, local air traffic conditions, safety and aircraft separation requirements. At times, these conditions may cause a temporary change in the flight pattern and bring overflights to an area not normally used to this activity.

What good does it do to call in or send a noise comment email when the overflight mitigation procedures are voluntary?
Education and awareness are major parts of our aircraft overflight program and public comments assist the airport in this effort. Comments are shared with the local FAA Air Traffic Control and allow the airport to advocate on behalf of the surrounding communities. Additionally, overflight comments allow LCPA to keep track of aircraft operations and sometimes correct a problem before it becomes a greater issue.

What is the minimum altitude that an airplane can fly over someone's house?
Per CFR 14 CFR 91.119:

    • Over congested areas: Over any congested area of a city, town or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons, an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of the aircraft.
    • Over other than congested areas: An altitude of 500 feet above the surface, except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In those cases, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle or structure.

NOTE: This requirement does not apply to arriving and departing aircraft.

What is the minimum altitude that a helicopter can fly over someone's house?
Per CFR 14 CFR 91.119:

    • A helicopter may be operated at less than the minimums prescribed for aircraft if the operation is conducted without hazard to persons or property on the surface, and complies with any routes or altitudes specifically prescribed for helicopters by the FAA.

Why do I always get aircraft flying over my house during bad weather?
During periods of reduced visibility (rain, fog, etc.), aircraft must use an instrument approach, which provides critical navigational guidance. The airport's single runway is oriented in a northeast and southwest direction and has instrument approaches on both ends. These approaches establish an aircraft’s approach further away from the airport to ensure a safe landing, which, in turn, may push the aircraft further out from the airport and over areas that don’t usually receive overflights under ideal conditions.

Why do airplanes not follow flight patterns and/or fly out of the corridors?
There are many reasons why an aircraft may deviate from normal procedures or airspace corridors, including but not limited to, wind/weather conditions, local air traffic conditions, safety and aircraft separation requirements. The main priority for the FAA is to maintain a safe and efficient airspace for our area.

It seems like the airport has been operating on the same flow direction for days. Why?
Wind and weather dictate which runway end or flow direction (northeast or southwest) the FAA will use. If our area, as well as other parts of Florida, is experiencing a persistent wind/weather pattern, this may force the FAA to rely on the same flow pattern and runway end for a consecutive period of time.

Why do some aircraft seem louder than others?
There are many reasons why aircraft sound different from one another. The noise characteristics of an aircraft depend on aircraft type, weight, thrust and speed. Other reasons may include airframe configuration, ambient conditions, proximity of structures/objects in the area, environment and the aircraft angle relative to the person hearing it.

Which flight corridor impacts me?
The potential impacted areas from aircraft operations are mainly those that are in the noise zones and off the extended centerline for each runway and near the airspace corridors/flight patterns. However, how and to what frequency any particular land area is impacted depends on wind/weather conditions, local air traffic conditions, safety, aircraft separation requirements and relative distance from the airport.

I am getting continuous overflights. Can’t they spread out the aircraft?
RSW remains one of the top 50 U.S. airports for passenger traffic. The majority of aircraft operations are concentrated to peak hours during the day and peak months during the year. Given certain conditions, it is not uncommon for the airport to experience over hundreds of aircraft operations per day. In times of high traffic volume, the number of aircraft operations will increase even while controllers make every effort to distribute the overflights over a wider area.

There is a no-fly zone over my house. Why are aircraft still flying over?
There are no “no-fly zones” or flight restrictions to aircraft in Lee County. Per United States Code 49 USC 40103, the United States Government has exclusive sovereignty of airspace of the United States, and a citizen of the United States has a public right of transit through the navigable airspace. Although aircraft will typically follow published arrivals/departures and FAA directives, many extenuating circumstances such as weather, traffic separation, workload saturation and diversions may cause temporary alterations to flight patterns. Further, LCPA continues to encourage air traffic controllers and pilots to follow the suggested voluntary overflight mitigation procedures; however, there is no legal precedent for them to do so. The primary responsibility of FAA air traffic control is to always ensure safety, and air traffic will always be regulated with that as the priority.

How many runways are located at RSW?
RSW has a single runway. Runways are numbered relative to their compass heading divided by 10, for example, Runway 06 points to the northeast at a compass heading of 60 degrees

    • 06/24: Primary runway, aligned northeast/southwest.

Is RSW getting a new runway? When will it be constructed?
LCPA does plan to construct a future parallel runway at RSW, which will be located south of the current runway. The timing of the future parallel runway is strictly dependent on many changes in industry structure, including but not limited to, load factors, economic growth, carrier strategy, airport growth and federal funding. The flight procedures for this runway have not been established yet, however, any areas off the extended centerline on both ends have the potential to receive overflights and/or aircraft related noise. The future parallel runway was also analyzed and included in our 2013 Noise Study.

What if I have questions/concerns for aircraft from Page Field (FMY)?
More information on aircraft overflights for FMY can be found on the FMY Fly Friendly Program webpage. Additionally, if you would like to file an overflight comment or have questions regarding aircraft from FMY, please visit our Submitting Aircraft Overflight Comment/Inquiry webpage.

How do I file an overflight comment and what is done with it?
There are three ways to file an overflight comment:

    • Hotline: (239) 673-0055

After a comment is filed, staff reviews the comment to determine if it warrants further research. If needed, research is conducted, as necessary. Comments are shared with local FAA Air Traffic Control.