BWI's new noise official faces a growing roar

June 07, 1994|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Sun Staff Writer

It's a good thing Robert "Rudy" Rudolph, the new noise abatement chief at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, likes a challenge.

One night last week, 28 people called the airport's hot line to complain about airplane noise. The federal government limits what he can do about it, and more aircraft are flying in and out of his airport every year.

Mr. Rudolph, 39, who took over April 27, has landed in a job where he must ensure that BWI's controversial noise abatement plan can cope with increasing air traffic while complying with federal regulations. And he must deal with neighbors already angry because of airport noise.

"I love airports and airplanes, and I love challenges," he says.

A former pilot, Mr. Rudolph replaces Robert Talbery, who retired in March. He comes to his $46,200 position as the Maryland Aviation Administration's Director of Aviation Noise and Abatement from a job as superintendent of operations at Snohomish County Airport in Everett, Wash.

Michael West, BWI's associate administrator for planning and engineering, said he recommended Mr. Rudolph because of his noise abatement experience in Washington, and because of his familiarity with air traffic control, stemming from his background as a pilot.

Mr. Rudolph flew Boeing 727s for Pan American World Airways until shortly before Pan Am went out of business. Before that, he was a flight instructor and operations manager for the Navy.

In Everett, he was the public relations representative for noise-related matters, an experience that will come in handy as he wrestles with BWI's noise abatement plan.

Mr. Rudolph, who refers to the callers as "customers," says he will try to establish a personal relationship with frequent callers, to see if he can address their concerns.

In Everett, Mr. Rudolph supervised the airport's noise abatement program, and helped write a noise study required to obtain federal funding for airport noise abatement programs. One of his main administrative duties this year will be to update BWI's version of that study.

Mr. Rudolph also must keep airport noise within limits set by state legislators even though traffic is mushrooming. In March, the airport handled more than a million passengers, setting a new monthly record.

Mr. Rudolph should be helped by federal rules being phased in by the turn of the century that will force airlines to switch to quieter planes, equip noisy planes with hush kits, or replace old, loud engines with new, quieter ones.

But he says it is not clear how long the noise reductions from quieter aircraft will be able to offset noise increases generated by more planes using the airport.

BWI can initiate some noise-control measures, such as redesigning landing and takeoff patterns, limiting the use of planes' engines while the aircraft are on the ground, and soundproofing or purchasing homes in the airport noise area. However, the airport administrators' actions are circumscribed by federal rules protecting interstate commerce and controlling air traffic.

Ultimately, Mr. Rudolph says, it will be up to the governor and the state legislature to decide whether traffic at BWI must be limited to keep airport noise at acceptable levels.

Meanwhile, he says he is happy with his new job.

"The timing was perfect," he says, because his wife, a naval aviator, was being transferred to Andrews Air Force Base.

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