Almanac

News - December 11, 2013

Pilots trying 'visual approach' to mitigate Midpeninsula noise

by Renee Batti

Pilots flying Surf Air planes into the San Carlos Airport have begun trial use of a visual approach technique in an attempt to mitigate the increased noise level over Atherton, North Fair Oaks and other Midpeninsula communities.

Residents have been complaining about the noise increase, the result of Surf Air's summer launch of a flight service from San Carlos Airport, using larger, noisier planes than those typically using the small, public-use airport.

A working group of residents, Atherton town officials, Surf Air and airport representatives, and representatives of supervisors Warren Slocum and Don Horsley met Dec. 5, and learned of the trial visual approach plan from Surf Air, according to San Carlos Airport Manager Gretchen Kelly.

Surf Air representatives also said the firm, which now has six daily flights out of San Carlos, will postpone its plan to expand its service to 10 daily flights until January, Ms. Kelly said.

The new approach method is being put in place only as pilots are being trained and the weather permits it, Ms. Kelly told the Almanac. "Yesterday (Dec. 5) was the first time they flew the visual approach," she said, adding that Surf Air's director of operations is conferring with pilots to evaluate the trial strategy.

Ms. Kelly said the visual approach "moves the flight path around" somewhat to allow pilots to try to fly over areas less dense, and not over the same neighborhoods each time they come in for a landing in San Carlos. She added that Surf Air is working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in making the changes.

Two other firms fly the same aircraft out of San Carlos — the Pilatus PC-12 single-engine turboprop; Ms. Kelly says the airport accommodates 15 to 20 PC-12 flights daily. But residents say that Surf Air's regular daily flights have led to an increased level of noise that greatly diminishes the quality of life and safety of their communities.

Atherton hosted a community meeting on Dec. 9 to discuss the aircraft noise issue. The meeting was held after the Almanac's press time. Go to AlmanacNews.com for a report on the meeting.

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