Truax Field Community Information

Aircraft Operations and FAQ

Noise Mitigation Efforts, Planning and Programs

General Airport Operations

What is the schedule of F-35 missions/operations? How do I know when to expect them to fly over Madison?

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is the sole organization in the United States that is responsible for the movement of aircraft. Air traffic controllers direct aircraft into and out of controlled airports such as MSN, with the main consideration being safe separation of aircraft and safe operations. The airport cannot require that certain procedures be used but does work closely with the FAA to develop voluntary procedures to mitigate noise impacts such as the Preferential Runway Use Program

It seems like the pilots of the F-35s are flying very low over the city and over my house. What are the pilots doing to mitigate noise impact during takeoff and landing?

Dane County Regional Airport submitted a Federal Aviation Regulation Part 150 Noise and Land Use Compatibility Study in 1991. This study was used to determine the aircraft noise levels around the airport and develop recommendations to abate the noise impact as much as possible. The Noise Exposure Maps were approved by the FAA in 1992, and the Noise Compatibility Plan was approved by the FAA in 1993. Most of the recommendations from the study have been successfully implemented by the airport. These include the Preferential Runway Use Program, the Home Sales Assistance Program, construction of a new runway which replaced two existing runways, encouraging aircraft operators to use noise abatement departure procedures, construction of a hush-house for military F-16 aircraft maintenance, establishment of visual approach and departure corridors for helicopters, defining an “airport affected area” to limit incompatible development in noise sensitive areas, purchasing of property surrounding the airport to prevent incompatible land uses, and monitoring and responding to noise complaints.

Why do jets “swoop” into their airport during their landings? Does this increase the noise?

This program encourages aircraft to arrive from north of the airport and depart to the north. In doing so, the high-density residential areas south of the airport are less impacted by aircraft noise. In addition, aircraft operators are asked to abide by certain departure procedures. An example of this is asking aircraft departing Runway 31 to climb to a predetermined altitude before turning left to avoid over-flying surrounding residential developments.

Due to the constraints of aviation safety, wind, visibility, runway conditions, cloud heights, traffic saturation, and other factors will affect the ability of the preferential runway use program to be utilized.

If I live outside the “noise map,” why am I still hearing high levels of noise?

Before runways at any airport are built, a 10-year wind study is performed to determine the direction of prevailing winds in the area. Runways are then designed to take advantage of the prevailing winds. Aircraft need to land and depart into the wind in order to provide lift and maintain safe operations. Runways are numbered according to the direction of the compass degree heading with which they are aligned. The ends of each runway are 180 degrees apart. For example, Runway 36 at Dane County Regional Airport faces north at 360 degrees. The opposite end of Runway 36 is Runway 18, and this faces south at 180 degrees.

The current useable runway lengths at Dane County Regional Airport are as follows:

  • Runway 18/36 - 9,005 feet
  • Runway 3/21 - 7,200 feet
  • Runway 13/31 - 5,846 feet
Why do I see other military aircraft other than the F-35 at Truax Field?

When a runway is closed, it is not available for use by aircraft arriving or departing, and flights must use the remaining available runways. Runways may need to be closed due to storms or unusual weather. During winter snowstorms, every effort is made to keep the runways open and free of snow and ice. Depending on the severity of the storm, it may become necessary to close one or more runways in the interest of safety. Runways may also need to be closed for maintenance purposes. To maintain a safe and efficient airport, runway surfaces and their associated systems need to be maintained in top condition. Another factor that affects runway use is the type of aircraft being used. A very large aircraft cannot operate safely if it were to use a runway that was designed for much smaller aircraft.

What other military aircraft operate in Wisconsin?

Different weather conditions can affect the ability of noise to travel. Also, during the summer months, hot, humid weather conditions affect the performance of aircraft and their engines. Colder winter weather, with drier, denser air, increases the efficiency of aircraft and their engines. Weather conditions can have a huge effect on aircraft operating characteristics. Just as you may find it harder to breathe in hot, humid weather, so does an aircraft engine. Because of these differences, aircraft need more runway length to take off and will be slightly lower over surrounding communities. Another weather condition that can affect noise transmission is a condition known as an inversion. This occurs when the air above is warmer than the air on the ground. This condition is opposite the norm, where the air gets colder as altitude increases. During an inversion, the noise that is directed up from the aircraft will ‘bounce’ off the warmer layer of air above and be re-directed back toward the ground.

Why do aircraft fly so low over my house?

To safely operate in and out of airports, air traffic controllers must direct aircraft. To safely transport passengers, these aircraft must fly into the airport at a shallow angle. When harsh weather or low visibility conditions exist, pilots must fly using ONLY instruments that tell them how to get to the airport. Because the pilot cannot see the airport, these instruments will guide the aircraft into a position where the aircraft can be safely landed once the pilot is close enough to view the airport and runway. The approach path for this type of instrument arrival guides the aircraft towards the runway while descending at an angle of about 3 degrees towards the runway end. If the pilot does not view the airport from a certain point of view, a decision must be made to abort the landing and perform a missed approach procedure. To perform this procedure, the pilot re-applies engine power and gains altitude while under the direction of air traffic controllers. The pilot must then decide whether to attempt another landing or divert to another airport that does not have dangerous weather or low visibility.

When aircraft are departing, air traffic controllers also direct them. The controllers must keep all the aircraft that are in the air separated by a minimum distance in altitude and laterally. Aircraft departing the airport generally climb as quickly as possible to minimize the noise impact to surrounding communities. There may be certain instances where a departing aircraft is prevented from climbing quickly to keep sufficient separation from another aircraft that is traversing the area, but these instances are rare. The airport, the pilots, and the Federal Aviation Administration are all working together to ensure the safest possible operations, while minimizing the impacts to the communities.

Why doesn’t the airport prohibit nighttime flights?

Due to Federal legislation, the Airport Noise & Capacity Act of 1990(ANCA), U.S. Certified airports are restricted from instituting bans on commercial aircraft operations.

Since the passage of the ANCA legislation, no U.S. airport has been successful in restricting access to Stage III aircraft. Stage III aircraft are the quietest available aircraft, according to Federal Aviation Administration standards. All the commercial airlines and cargo airlines currently operating at Dane County Regional Airport are utilizing Stage III aircraft.

What else is the Federal Government doing to help?

The Federal Aviation Administration is currently working on a noise standard for new aircraft. This standard will be called Stage IV.

What can I do to help?

The most important thing anyone can do to understand airport operations is to become educated on the ways that airports and aircraft operate. If aircraft operators are following the noise abatement procedures, they are doing their best to minimize any negative effects to the surrounding communities. You can find out the current weather conditions by calling 249-0615 to hear a recorded weather update. If aircraft operators are found to be operating contrary to the noise abatement procedures, the Noise Abatement Officer follows-up with the operator to determine the cause and request cooperation in the future. You may call the airport’s Noise Abatement Line at 246-5841 to report aircraft noise disturbances. Working together, we can and are ensuring the economic vitality of the region through efficient use of transportation resources, while also striving to be a good neighbor to the surrounding communities.

Air National Guard F-35 Operations

115th Fighter Wing


The MISSION of the 115th Fighter Wing is to deliver dominant combat airpower and provide agile support for domestic operations.

To achieve that mission, the wing’s VISION is to be the Air Force’s premier fighter wing. Outstanding Airmen who are trained, ready and dedicated.

“Delivering airpower for our nation requires more than just aircraft; It requires Total Force Airmen – active duty, Guard, Reserve, civilians – in all Air Force specialties working together as a seamless team to operate, maintain and enable our mission and bring the unique capabilities and effects of airpower to bear.”

— Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr.
F-35 being directed down the runway at Truax
Four F-35 jets with one being refueled by a refueling jet

Economic Impact

About the F-35A

The F-35A Lightning II fifth generation fighter uses aerodynamic performance and advanced integrated avionics to provide next-generation stealth, enhanced situational awareness, and reduced vulnerability for the United States and allied nations.

In 2019, the United States Air Force selected the 115th Fighter Wing to be the second unit in the Air National Guard. In April of 2023, the initial three F-35A’s arrived at Madison’s Truax Field, and currently the Wing has eight F-35s assigned and present at the unit. It is estimated that the remaining jets will arrive over the next year until the 115th will reach its full inventory at 20 jets. Currently, the 115th FW is on track to complete their conversion requirements by the end of calendar year 2025, at which point they will become fully operational. The Air Force has no plans to change the decision to base the F-35A’s in Madison, Wisconsin.

Frequently asked questions

What is the schedule of F-35 missions/operations? How do I know when to expect them to fly over Madison?

The details below estimated the flight scheduled for F-35 steady state operations out of Truax Field. In general, the 115th Fighter Wing operates with take off windows Mondays through Thursdays, with one take-off mid-morning, and one early afternoon, each generally with two takeoff windows per day, each generally with 2 to 4 aircraft. The Wing also operates during a drill weekend, typically the first non-holiday weekend of the month. Time may change due to weather, Federal Aviation Administration air traffic coordination, maintenance request, and other factors, which prevent us from releasing more specific takeoff information. The 115th Fighter Wing, along with the Wisconsin National Guard, and the Department of Military Affairs communicate through a subscription service that sends notifications to subscribers when there is a significant deviation to this schedule, such as during evening flying operations. To subscribe to updates, please click here:>>>>

It seems like the pilots of the F-35s are flying very low over the city and over my house. What are the pilots doing to mitigate noise impact during takeoff and landing?

Pilots from the 115th Fighter Wing are very concerned about the impact of jet noise on the surrounding community and are making every effort to practice noise abatement processes and procedures to support that effort. The pilots request from the FAA, as well as from Air Traffic Control to take off on Runway 18-36 to the North, away from the city on every take-off. With safety in mind, and within the limits of the aircraft, prioritization is given to ensuring that whenever possible, the F-35s take off to the north as long as it is in the bounds of flight safety.

Why do jets “swoop” into their airport during their landings? Does this increase the noise?

The swooping maneuver allows jets to complete their landing efficiently to open the runway back up for civilian and commercial aircraft traffic. A straight-in approach could back up airspace for up to 20 miles, creating an aerial traffic jam. In addition, the final descending turn is quieter than a straight-in approach because the jets use gravity in the final turn to help fly an approach speed instead of increased engine thrust. It’s not much of a power reduction, but it’s slightly less than flying straight in, and it keeps the jets higher for a longer period over the local community, reducing the noise footprint.

If I live outside the “noise map,” why am I still hearing high levels of noise?

The 65 Day-Night Average Sound Level (DNL) is a noise metric combining the levels and durations of noise events over an extended period. It is a cumulative average computed over a 24-hour period to represent the total noise exposure. DNL also accounts for the more intrusive nighttime noise by adding a 10 dB penalty for noise events after 10:00 p.m. and before 7:00 a.m. DNL is used at all U.S. airports except for those in California, which use a similar metric.

Therefore, residents within and outside the 65 DNL contour will experience peaks in excess of 65 DNL.

Why do I see other military aircraft other than the F-35 at Truax Field?

As a fully operational fighter wing, the Wisconsin Air National Guard trains in regional airspace with partner units. This integrated training is vital to enhance mission readiness and provide realistic combat training experiences. As the cornerstone of the U.S. Air Force fighter fleet, the F-35A Lightning II is designed to operate in conjunction with a variety of aircraft including bombers, fighters and others.

What other military aircraft operate in Wisconsin?

The Wisconsin Army National Guard flies UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopters from Truax Field. In addition, other military aircraft may train in Wisconsin, along with transit through Madison on their way to other training destinations. The Department of Military Affairs and the Wisconsin Air National Guard do not have any visibility or authority over air use by other military, civilian or commercial air traffic in Wisconsin.