Surf Air FAQs

(1) Who are the Surf customers? Do any of them live in the flight path?
According to Supervisor Horsley in 2016, “About one-third of their customers are based in San Mateo. The other two thirds are from San Francisco, Marin and Santa Clara Counties. We’ve encouraged them to see if they could have more flights from San Jose and Oakland. They haven’t done so.”

The Surf website states that membership starts at $1,950 per month plus a $1,000 sign up fee. Prices change occasionally. An article on BusinessWire dated 5/4/16 said there are 2,800 members spread among the 12 California airports plus Las Vegas. The Los Angeles Times article 4/10/15 stated “The average customer is 44 and has an annual income of $411,000. About half own two homes.”

(2) What is the Surf Air business model?
Surf Air is a private, members-only travel service. It has plans to grow its number of flights and continues to received funding to lease additional aircraft. In spite of its adverse impact on residents, Surf Air has increased its flights. Two years ago it was 8 per weekday, then it was 19, and in 2016 it has reached 40. They are growing their business at our expense. We suffer the negative impacts of their business.

From Surf’s promotional material mid 2016: they have grown from 8 flights per day to 88, they have 12 planes now with 53 more on the way, 31,242 trips between LA and the Bay, and the “Dawn Patrol” 1,698 flights took off before 6:30 am.

(3) Surf Air’s plane the Pilatus PC 12 seems louder than other planes using San Carlos.  Is that the reason for their excessive noise?
There are several reasons why Surf Air flights are noisier to neighbors than other planes.  According to a study done at Seattle, the Pilatus PC 12 ,across the 3 indices used for noise, measured louder than the Boeing 737 – 500 and McDonnell Douglas DC8 among others.

(4) Has Surf Air had problems at other airports with noise?
Surf Air is located in Santa Monica, CA. The local airport in Santa Monica does not allow them to use the airport. The city of Santa Monica is trying to close the airport because of the adverse effects of noise on the community and concerns about safety.

(4 (a)) such a common comment… “We live in an urban area. And to expect that you can avoid noise or traffic (in the air or on the ground) while living in a metropolitan area of 10m is far fetched I think.”
There are several aspects to this question. Everyone expects traffic, leaf blowers, motorcycles, trains, and planes. If you live in the flight path for SFO, you will hear planes. You know that when you elect to live in that flight path. We do not live in the flight path for a major airport. Traffic arriving at KSQL has not produced excessive noise for 50 years until Surf arrived. Surf Air often arrives “low and loud.” Sound meters at residences have registered 78 Db. When there are 42 weekday flights, the noise adds up. Surf contributes excessive and unnecessary noise.
Secondly, other small planes using KSQL do not generate excessive noise. Surf should generate no more noise than do others. There is no technical reason why they cannot fly quieter.
Thirdly, this type of noise is unhealthy and disruptive. There is an adverse impact on our schools, as has been documented locally. There are documented adverse effects on the health of those in a flight path. Both are discussed further in other sections of this website.

(5) Has Surf Air acknowledged their impact?
At a Town Hall meeting 9/30/14, the Surf Air CEO stated “We have a situation here that’s negatively affecting your lives.” He later said in a letter, “out of consideration for the health and wellness of community members, Surf Air will be self-imposing limits on our hours of operation from 7 am to 9:30 pm, effective January 1, 2016.
Those hours never materialized. Surf’s hours are from 6 am to 10:20 pm.

(6) Surf Air has promised to be a “good corporate citizen.” Isn’t there something they can do to quiet their planes? Other planes at KSQL do not produce the same noise.
Surf Air spokesman said at both community meetings that they want to be a “good corporate citizen.” They have not implemented any satisfactory measures if any at all. Surf Air has raised millions of dollars and leased more planes. They continue to use the noisy Pilatus without any investments that would help the neighborhoods they impact. If other airlines were to create the same disturbance as Surf Air, we need a structure to prevent that disturbance.  Those using the airport before Surf Air were not a problem.  Surf Air has shown that without oversight and control, aircraft of that class can generate as much noise as they want and fly whenever they want.

(7) Who owns Surf Air now?
As of June 2017 Surf Air is owned by Encompass Aviation. Encompass is the operator of Surf. They hire and train the pilots. Surf does its own scheduling and marketing. On the flights are listed under the Ident column as ROM—. If you click on the flight for additional information, you will see Empresa Aeromar as the airline.

This arrangement explains the disconnect in May, 2017, when the new chief pilot, an employee of Encompass, was not aware that Surf was announcing more flights into KSQL.
Encompass is a certificated Part 135 commuter operator (intra-state) providing safe, high quality and on-time air transportation services. This is what Surf does, and this is Surf’s designation (Part 135 , air taxi and air charter operations).

Encompass brings FAA Part 121 operations management, skills and experience to the Part 135 marketplace. Part 121 is larger, scheduled air carriers like the major airlines that we are used to flying.

From Encompass: “We invest our time, capital, and resources in professional companies that results in successful relationships for all involved.” Now they own Surf.

From Linked In: Encompass Aviation is a highly specialized aviation investment and management consulting firm focused exclusively on commercial airline operations, management, certification, planning, aircraft leasing and aircraft trading. We are presently working to obtain our own FAA Part 135 operating certificate and anticipate the start of operations in the first quarter of 2017.

Specialties: airline operations, aviation management, aircraft trading, aircraft leasing
Website Industry Airlines/Aviation
Type Privately Held Headquarters
303 W. Lancaster Ave Wayne, PA 19087 United States
Company Size 1-10 employees Founded 2015

(8) Are there measures that Surf and its pilots can enact to reduce noise? Can they fly “differently” to reduce noise?
Yes, but…it is unlikely that any technical adjustment will result in sufficient noise reduction.

These suggestions and others like them have not been implemented. Since the Pilatus has been measured by the FAA at decibels higher than some of the major carriers’ planes – like the Boeing and McDonnell Douglas- it is difficult to make it less noisy.

4/27/17: We had the chance to discuss a lot the procedures for landing, from a professional pilot’s perspective. Clearly, the tower doesn’t have enforcing power, just suggestions and support (unless for collision avoidance). So we need to convince pilots (and their boss, the chief pilot) to apply procedures to reduce noise, even though it’s easier to do GPS approach straight line into the runway (and above our heads).

(1) Descent Angle: He told me that Pilatus have the ability to descend at a steep angle without problems, that would solve the problem if they start their descent on top of 101 into SQL and stay above 1000ft before.

Note the landing distance (2170 ft for 2200 ft at SQL): that makes Pilatus a dangerous plane to land at SQL as there’s no margin! The steeper the angle of descent, the higher the landing speed (they have to decrease potential energy much faster), so it’s an extra burden on the pilots.

The final angle of descent for GPS procedure is 3.05 deg for SQL and 3.68 for PAO (Palo Alto). Why is SQL flatter? that makes planes fly lower above our heads. 1100 ft above my house instead of 1330 ft for 3.68). The sound intensity would be 32% less at the angle of 3.68 degrees. A notable difference!

Convince Surf Air to fly more quietly, and direct their flights when possible over unpopulated areas. This is fully within their control, but they must want to do so. In visual conditions (no clouds), the PIC (pilot in command) has authority to route the flight other than straight in on the GPS (instrument) approach. Additionally, the pilot has the ability to fly the plane at different power settings, flap configurations, propeller speeds, air speeds, and altitudes in ways that can drastically alter the sound level. A great example is the non-Surf Air PC12 flight that rolled in at over 96dB on Monday morning, whereas most of SA’s flights come in at 74dB, but they sometimes have come in quiet as 69dB.

(2) Flap configurations: landing with wheels down and flaps down requires more power . More drag from the plane requires more power (and noise) to maintain air speed. We will often see planes with flaps and wheels down as they fly over us.