Surf Air – New Approach and Why You Should Be Concerned

Beginning July 5, 2016 Surf Air will be allowed to fly a new approach into KSQL that will take them over the Bay. The approach which was approved by the FAA, will result in a six month test to determine if it will be a permanent option. The test period will start in early July.
It’s important to understand what this means:
* The new approach will only be used on fair weather days (VFR conditions).
* Use of the approach is at the pilot’s discretion.
* If the pilot makes the request, Air Traffic Control may or may not allow inbound Surf Air flights to use the approach
* SQL departures see no benefits
* The FAA may cancel the approach after six months.
* This is not a final or permanent solution for the Surf Air noise problem over our homes

Why You Should be Cautious About This New Visual Approach
Let’s look at each of the points above to better understand how they may impact the noise over our homes.

Weather
Poor weather or visibility will force pilots to use the current published approaches that take Surf’s aircraft over our neighborhoods. Cloudy, foggy, rainy days, or days where the pilot can’t see the airport from just south of Moffet means they will use the current approach over our homes. We know that Surf Air ‘clumps’ their flights into early morning and after 6 pm. This coincides with when it is most likely to be foggy or low visibility conditions.

Pilot’s Discretion
It’s voluntary and the pilot will make the decision. A pilot must manage a lot of details during final approach, and adding this new, more complex approach to their flights may create situations where they just don’t want to do it. This means they may choose to use it or they can continue to fly the current approach, it’s their choice to make the request to use it (or not). It’s not clear how many pilots will choose not to use the new approach option.

Air Traffic Control (ATC)
ATC will make the decision to grant a pilot the option to use the new approach should the pilot request it. We live in a crowded airspace and ATC may simply deny the request because of high traffic in the area (for example). High traffic periods include early morning and later afternoon/early evening. But with three major airports, all times of the day are generally considered busy over the Bay.

Departures
There are 22 departures. The Surf Air flights will continue to depart over the homes on the departure flight path. Most of these Surf Air flights turn south after departure, which means they are again flying over Redwood City, Menlo Park, Atherton and other neighborhoods.

Test Period
This is a six month test, during which time ATC and the FAA will be gathering data. It is possible that the new flight path could be canceled after 6 months.

Permanent Solution
The FAA may choose to rescind the approach after the six month test – and if they do, we are back to current noise conditions at all times of the day. It’s pretty obvious that at best, this is a welcome but limited option for solving the KSQL noise problem.

This new approach can reduce noise over our homes – if it is used. But we need a lot of varying weather conditions, and solid reporting from KSQL on what percentage of flights are actually using the approach.

Considering we are in our dry season, the initial stats could be skewed suggesting that it is working (if they choose to use the approach). Remember that during the winter months, the usage stats will be much different and the noise will be back over our neighborhoods.

Noise Problem
The new approach is a good step in the right direction. In fact, it clearly acknowledges that there is a serious noise problem that Surf Air and the FAA are finally addressing. It’s taken over 3 years to get this far and we applaud the efforts of our community leaders in supporting this noise problem.

However, we are adamant that we need permanent solutions, and that will require that our County Supervisors support efforts to implement changes at KSQL that enforce limits on high volume commercial flights from operators like Surf Air.

Surf Air Expansion
Twenty two daily inbound Surf Air flights and twenty two departures are only the beginning. When CEO Jeff Potter was recently asked how many additional flights would be added, he avoided the question and reinforced that SQL in San Carlos is a popular destination for their customers.

See the attached promotional piece that was sent to Surf Air members recently:
* 12 planes currently flying, 53 more on the way
* 209 employees, 75 pilots

Are you ready for 25, 30, 40 or even more inbound flights per day? It could happen. And it’s just a matter of time before another operator like Surf Air arrives at the Airport adding even more noise to our skies.

Please continue to encourage the County Supervisors to implement changes at KSQL that gives all of us confidence that the next 10+ years will have sufficient controls in place to reduce noise over our homes. Your past support in this effort got us this far, now we need to complete the effort to ensure we will have a permanent reduction in noise.

Contact the Supervisors today and let them understand your concerns and desire for a permanent solution.

Board of Supervisors Meeting

County Supervisors Meeting Summary of Meeting
March 9, 2016

Residents who attended a packed hearing Tuesday on noise generated by planes at the small airport said the problem got significantly worse three years ago, right around the time Surf Air, which bills itself as “the nation’s private air travel club,” began flying out of the airport.

As reported by the SJ Mercury News San Mateo County Times on the Board of Supervisors meeting of March 8, 2016:  “After listening to complaints from more than a dozen residents, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors called for a study of noise generated by airplanes flying in and out of the county-owned airport that could include mandatory restrictions on flying at night and other measures.

The board also heard from more than 20 supporters of the airport, who expressed concern that restricting activities at the airport could threaten people’s jobs and possibly lead to the facility’s closure. Supervisors assured them those fears were unfounded.”

Board President Warren Slocum said it’s “certainly not our intent … to shut down the airport or adversely affect the small businesses that operate at the San Carlos Airport.

Other supervisors agreed they have no intention of closing the airport. “I guarantee you that would never happen,” said Supervisor Don Horsley. “I think the airport does provide a valuable service.”

However, he said, years of working with Surf Air have not produced a solution. “Nothing has worked and we have not seen any improvements,” he said.

The county has a responsibility to the health and safety of its residents, he said. “Noise does affect people’s health. It is not a few people; it is a lot of people.”

Read more in the News section