San Carlos Airport Noise Issues Town Hall Meeting September 14, 2016

To address San Carlos Airport noise issues ONLY.

The second and final Town Hall meeting will be held on Wednesday, September 14, 2016 at 6:30 PM at:

Fair Oaks Community Center
2600 Middlefield Rd
Redwood City CA

County Staff will not be prepared to address aircraft noise from other Bay Area airports at this meeting.

The community is invited to attend one or both meetings to discuss San Carlos Airport noise disturbance issues.

Mercury News Article regarding San Mateo Airport Airplane Noise

Read more about the meeting held on August 16, 2016 in Hollbrock Palmer Park.

Atherton: Angry crowd rips Surf Air at town hall meeting

By John Orr, Daily News Staff Writer

Posted:   08/18/2016 04:57:06 AM PDT | Updated:   3 days ago


The pavilion at Atherton’s Holbrook-Palmer Park was filled to overflowing on Tuesday night, as 185 people showed up to talk about noise from Surf Air airplanes flying out of San Carlos Airport. The third meeting on the topic, it was the largest crowd to date, according to City Council member Rick DeGolia.

Many were angry about Surf Air, which began operations in 2013 with a few flights per day from San Carlos to Los Angeles and back. It has expanded to 22 outgoing and 22 incoming flights a day, using noisy Pilatus PC-12 turboprop airplanes.

There have been thousands of complaints, citing annoyances such as ruined phone calls, woken babies (and adults) and glassware shaking on shelves caused by low-flying aircraft.

During the public comment part of the meeting, some speakers said they call to complain about the noise several times a day. Gretchen Kelly, San Mateo County airports manager, confirmed that her department, which used to get very few complaint calls, has been averaging 85 a day recently.

San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley, host of the meeting, told the crowd that when Surf Air began operations, the county was surprised, and asked the Federal Aviation Administration, “How did we end up with a commercial airline in what had been a general aviation airport?”

The county was told, Horsley said, that not only were there no regulations stopping Surf Air from operating out of San Carlos Airport, but that there are federal regulations that make it so the county can’t stop Surf Air, at least not while it is receiving federal transportation grant money.


 The county has already tried a number of schemes to slow Surf Air, such as reducing the amount of parking available. Talks and studies are underway, but, Horsley said, “Government is like a cruise ship — no, it’s like a giant barge. It moves slowly and it’s hard to make a turn.”

Horsley said that the county had asked Surf Air to cap its number of flights per day, but had been refused. He said that the county was continuing to study the problem, and that the reports are expected before the Board of Supervisors in October.Surf Air did agree to use a different flight path when possible for landings, said Horsley, using visual flight rules (VFR) to swing out over San Francisco Bay, starting at Moffett Field, when possible. If visibility is reduced in any way, however, the planes take their original GPS-guided path over Menlo Park, Atherton, North Fair Oaks and Redwood City. The airline has used VFR for about 67 percent of its landings since beginning trial use of the path, Horsley said.

One of the speakers from the crowd noted that the VFR change only affects incoming flights. Outgoing flights all go over the same areas as before.

A few speakers said they were from Sunnyvale, which gets a lot more noise from the Surf Air planes when they use the VFR approach.

“What gave you the right to dump your trash in your neighbor’s yard?” said one Sunnyvale resident.

Atherton Mayor Elizabeth Lewis also spoke to the crowd, noting that Surf Air executives, including CEO Jeff Potter, have come to some of the meetings of the working group of county and municipal leaders to discuss the issue, but that even as they attended the sessions, they continued to grow the numbers of flights.

Potter and other Surf Air executives were on hand, and Potter said the company is committed to continuing to meet to discuss the issue, but that they all had to leave by 7:30 p.m., because they hadn’t realized the meeting would go so late, and had scheduled a business flight for that evening.

“Don’t you own the airline?” someone in the crowd shouted. “Can’t you just have the flight wait?”

“It doesn’t work that way,” said Potter, shouting over hoots and jeers.

Before leaving, the Surf Air execs heard an audience member say that some of the Surf Air pilots seemed to know how to make the airplanes quieter, because some seemed louder than others. Jim Sullivan, Surf Air senior vice president for operations, responded that they would need to know the times and locations of those quieter flights, to study the situation, and was largely greeted by hoots of derision and disbelief.

The noise made by the airplanes has been studied in various ways, including by an unnamed Google executive who set up a sound meter in his front yard, said Joe Stratton, a neighbor of that Google exec and a member of the group Calm the Skies. Stratton brought in a device before the meeting and plugged it into the sound system to play the sound of a Surf Air plane flying over that yard.

More than 40 members of the public spoke at the meeting. Lewis told the crowd that they would be restricted to two minutes each, but many spoke longer.

Several speakers indicated they had some sympathy for Surf Air and its business model, but questioned its practices.

“How can the desires of nine people (the number of passengers Surf Air planes can carry) mean more than the lives of the 150,000 people they are disturbing?”

Adam Ullman, of Quiet the Skies, said he had sued the county in small claims court over the Surf Air noise, and won. The county is appealing that case, Horsley said, because it had no jurisdiction regarding Surf Air flights.

“They are suing the wrong people,” Horsley said.

Ullman told the crowd they should all file such suits.

“It would be a death of a thousand cuts,” Ullman said, to enthusiastic applause.

Another speaker was John Warrace, of Menlo Park, who complained about the noise, then suggested that maybe sometime a bunch of cars could surround the airport and all have mechanical troubles at the same time, to block access for Surf Air pilots and passengers. That idea drew general applause.

Other speakers included general aviation pilots who urged the crowd to be careful, and not follow the example of Santa Monica Airport, where the community has waged a campaign to shut it down, which it may be forced to do by 2023.

There is an increasing shortage of pilots, said one speaker, and general aviation airports are needed to help pilots get the hours they need to get jobs in commercial aviation.

Read the full article >>

San Carlos Airport Noise Issues Town Hall Meeting August 16, 2016

To address San Carlos Airport noise issues ONLY.

The first Town Hall meeting will be held on Tuesday, August 16, 2016 at 6:00 PM at:

Holbrook Palmer Park,
Jennings Pavilion,
150 Watkins Avenue,
Atherton, CA 94027

County Staff will not be prepared to address aircraft noise from other Bay Area airports at the meeting on August 16th.

A second Town Hall meeting, hosted by Supervisor Slocum, is being scheduled at the Fair Oaks Community Center in mid-September. I will send the exact date and time when confirmed with the Center.

The community is invited to attend one or both meetings to discuss San Carlos Airport noise disturbance issues.

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.

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.

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 
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