Friends in my old 'hood, the historic districts north of downtown Phoenix, have asked me to write about a change in the approach paths to Sky Harbor International Airport that is bringing airplanes lower and louder over these neighborhoods.
When I lived in Ocean Beach in San Diego, everybody knew when it was 6 a.m. That's because flight operations were commencing at Lindbergh Field whose one runway took outbound planes directly over our neighborhood. I lived a block-and-a-half from the beach, in a cool district the tourists usually missed — but the airplane noise came with the bargain.
Cities are noisy. As I write from the 10th floor of my downtown Seattle condo, I hear traffic, sirens, people yelling and, yes, airplanes approaching Sea-Tac (albeit from a higher altitude). During the daytime there is construction noise from one of the scores of new skyscrapers going up. The sounds are one of the energizing things about living in the heart of a city.
Central Phoenix, by contrast, is uncommonly quiet. There's the hum of the Papago Freeway. At night, the Santa Fe train whistles that remind me of my boyhood (one hardly hears the Union Pacific now compared to when it was the Southern Pacific years ago and Phoenix was a major point on its main line). Otherwise, especially if you are a block in from a major arterial, it is perhaps the quietest place in the metro area. It is much quieter than when I was a boy and central Phoenix was vibrant.