Almanac

News - May 28, 2014

Atherton urges Surf Air to fly at higher altitudes

by Barbara Wood

Taking a new approach in efforts to reduce airplane noise over Atherton, the town is sending a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration urging that planes fly at a higher altitude until closer to the San Carlos Airport.

Noisy planes became an issue soon after a new small airline, Surf Air, began flying passengers into the San Carlos Airport in June 2013.

Surf Air, whose customers pay one monthly price for unlimited flights on small passenger planes, recently added flights to and from the Truckee airport to their weekend flight schedule.

At their May 21 meeting, City Council members agreed to have a letter signed by Mayor Cary Wiest sent to the FAA, urging the change in the GPS flight path that aircraft are asked to observe.

"Adding a higher GPS approach would result in aircraft flying 25% higher over homes in the Atherton, North Fair Oaks and Menlo Park neighborhoods," the letter to the FAA says. "We believe that this increase in altitude would greatly reduce the noise impacts."

Councilman Rick DeGolia, who serves on the San Carlos Airport Noise Working Group along with Councilwoman Elizabeth Lewis, said the airline has promised to make another change to lessen noise. Pilots for the airline have been dropping their landing gear and powering up 6 miles from the airport, he said, while other pilots do that only 3 miles away. Surf Air officials have promised to start dropping the landing gear closer to the airport, he said. "That will be the most material change," Mr. DeGolia said.

In December 2013, approximately 75 people attended a community meeting in Atherton to air their concerns about increased flight noise. Since then the working group has met several times to attempt to find a solution to the problem that would not move aircraft over other residential neighborhoods.

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