Residents near Boeing Field, from Georgetown to the west and as far as Mercer Island to the east, were blitzed with long and extraordinarily loud jet engine noise late Tuesday night.
The culprit was Boeing, which broke a community noise curfew by running protracted engine runs on its new 777-9X at the north end of the airfield until after midnight.
That massive plane, which had its first flight at the end of January, has the largest jet engines ever built. For these on-the-ground tests, Boeing said the engines were repeatedly run at various thrust levels up to full power for approximately 5 minutes at a time, over the course of three hours between 9:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m.
Residents from nearby Beacon Hill who might have gone outside expecting to see a low-level flyover by the Air Force or some giant plane would have seen nothing overhead despite noise that persisted far longer than it would for any jet coming in to land. The 777-9X was sitting throughout the exercises at a test stand on the north end of Boeing Field.
“There is no excuse,” said Boeing spokesman Bernard Choi. “We’re apologizing to nearby residents.”
Cameron Satterfield, spokesman for King County International Airport, more commonly called Boeing Field, said airport management gave approval for Boeing to perform engine run-up testing on the 777X aircraft between 6 and 9 p.m. that evening.
However, after multiple delays, “the company did not begin this testing until about 9:30 p.m.,” Satterfield said.
After the King County Sheriff’s Office received multiple late-night calls from local residents complaining of the noise, Sgt. John Youngblood called the airport operations staff, who were able to make contact with Boeing representatives and finally shut the testing down at about 12:30 a.m. on Wednesday.
“This event was in violation of the airport’s noise abatement policy, which restricts when activities like engine testing can take place,” Satterfield said. In general, the curfew runs from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.
“Engine run-up testing of the 777X has been put on hold, and King County has been in contact with Boeing leadership to ensure an incident like this does not happen again,” Satterfield said.
Boeing in a statement Thursday acknowledged the test had extended beyond the agreed allotted time.
“This was not a normal occurrence and we are making adjustments to prevent it from happening in the future,” Boeing said.
Residents who have questions or concerns about noise from Boeing Field can file a report online at kingcounty.gov/airport, send an email to KCIANoise@kingcounty.gov, or call the Noise Hotline at 206-205-5242.
Airport management is also considering holding a community meeting regarding Tuesday’s incident, Satterfield said.