FAA invites comment from residents under flight paths


A strong turnout from Portola Valley, Ladera and Woodside is expected at the workshop hosted by the Federal Aviation Administration in the San Mateo Public Library at 55 W. 3rd Ave. at 4 p.m. on Thursday, April 17.

At issue: the noise made by a gradually increasing number of commercial aircraft as they pass over Peninsula communities, some of higher altitude, as they approach the San Francisco International Airport.

At this workshop, one of five identical events to be held in the Bay Area from April 14 to 18, the FAA will have people on hand to explain a draft environmental assessment of an FAA plan to optimize the use of Northern California airspace.

The 953-page draft report, a year in the making, is the work of the FAA and Santa Clara-based ATAC Corp., whose specialties include airspace and environmental impact analysis.

"The materials will include large poster boards depicting some of the graphics and other information that's in the draft environmental assessment," FAA spokesman Ian Gregor told the Almanac. "FAA reps will staff each board and be prepared to help people understand the material in the draft EA."

The report, published March 25, describes "new" routes into major Bay Area airports to save fuel and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The proposed routes are new only to the extent that they are intended to codify the actual routes now in use. The current routes are not precisely adhered to in practice. Two of the proposed routes appear to converge over Ladera.

The report assumes more use of GPS to

more efficiently guide aircraft, and less use of vectoring -- an air-traffic-controller-directed method employing traditional stepped descents into airports, which generates noise as pilots adjust the aircraft's speed.

The FAA report concludes that the proposed routes "would not result in a significant noise impact" with respect to forecasts of air traffic in 2014 and 2019.

Jim Lyons of unincorporated Woodside and Dr. Tina Nguyen of Portola Valley disagree with that conclusion. They have written to the offices of congresswomen Anna Eshoo, D-Menlo Park, and Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, calling the report's noise data flawed because it is does not account for differences in computerized projections of noise compared with data from actual noise monitors on the ground.

The report also does not address higher-than-average ground levels in the Portola Valley area, nor does it discuss the continued use of vectoring, they say.

Local governments customarily address controversial issues in public hearings, with live testimony to officials before an interested community. Asked whether there would be public hearings, Mr. Gregor didn't respond to the question. He did say: "One of the purposes of the proposed project is to increase efficiency by reducing vectoring, speed changes, and altitude level-offs during climb-outs and descents. Controllers always have to have the option to vector, but (GPS) procedures reduce the need for it. The noise report has extremely detailed information on noise impacts at literally thousands of locations."

Visitors to the workshop, particularly residents of Portola Valley and Ladera, will have questions on these and other issues, but they must be submitted in writing, Mr. Gregor said. Comment cards will be available at the workshop, with options to write to the FAA via email or regular mail. The 30-day comment period on the draft ends April 24. The FAA will publish responses after the comment period ends, Mr. Gregor said.

A request for a 60-day extension to the comment period has been made from the offices of Ms. Eshoo and Ms. Speier, from the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, and from Peninsula governments, including the town councils of Woodside and Portola Valley.

Click here to comment and to access the entire FAA report.


Like this comment
Posted by Julie
a resident of another community
on Apr 17, 2014 at 2:20 pm

Just a reminder to anyone interested: Today, Thursday April 17th, 2014: FAA public comment meeting.

"FAA invites comment from residents under flight paths
by Dave Boyce / Almanac
A strong turnout from Portola Valley, Ladera and Woodside is expected at the workshop hosted by the Federal Aviation Administration in the San Mateo Public Library at 55 W. 3rd Ave. at 4 p.m. on Thursday, April 17."

Like this comment
Posted by Julie
a resident of another community
on Apr 18, 2014 at 12:51 pm

Thanks for this article.

I attended this workshop yesterday April 17th.

As the Almanac article states, Comments from the Public will be accepted to April 24, 2014.

Email the FAA at:
This email address as well as other addresses are listed in the Almanac article.

NorCal OAPM is: Northern California Optimization of Airspace and Procedures in the Metroplex.

The plan changes ("optimizes") arrival and departure procedures at the four major Northern California airports: SFO, Oakland, San Jose and Sacramento. In short, as it was explained to me, with this plan there will be more use of GPS technology and less use of tower-to-pilot communication. Also, a change in landing approach from stepped-down landing to more gradual descent.

The FAA people who hosted the afternoon info event were available and interested in explaining the new plan. They stated what the FAA considers advantages to using it. They explained to me that there are no known disadvantages. There has been no test data that shows disadvantages especially in respect to increased noise levels, but then added that not alot of tests have been done. At least that is how I understood what the FAA official told me.

I met a Menlo Park park ranger who was very concerned about increased noise levels. She was well informed and aware of current studies done and has serious concerns.

I met a Union City resident who showed me photos of the oil-based soot accumulated on her home driveway and house siding. She said that it was even difficult to get it off with a power washer since it adheres to surfaces. The airplane traffic has increased to such an extent that she counted and listed planes overhead one day and was shocked at the result. (I can relate to that because out of frustration one day I did the same thing).

She has lung problems. The FAA official who works in the EPA section of FAA suggested to her that she contact the Bay Area Air Quality District.

So, we all left carrying our information sheets and feeling somewhat hopeless in admitting to ourselves that we just may have to live with these conditions or worst.

Like this comment
Posted by Jetman
a resident of another community
on Apr 19, 2014 at 12:30 am

Let me see if I have this right... the FAA changes the flight path aircraft actually fly, anytime they please, without inviting public comment, but invites public comment, only when they decides to change their maps to reflect the changes that are ALREADY in place?

Like this comment
Posted by Jetman
a resident of another community
on Apr 19, 2014 at 12:37 am

Numerous studies have shown a link between aircraft noise and cardiovascular disease, but noise may not be the only problem. In the first study of its kind, experts from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, collected pollution from a commercial jet as it operated at different loads. They found microscopic droplets of unburned jet fuel in the exhaust, that when exposed to sunlight, break down into an even greater number, of even smaller particles, that can penetrate the lungs and blood-brain barrier.

The Carnegie Mellon Study, which was published in the Journal of Atmospheric Chemistry and Physic, can be found here: Web Link

Jet pollution can penetrate the Lungs and Brain study reveals ~ May 13, 2011 Web Link

Living under a flight path can raise the risk of heart disease and stroke
The Telegraph ~ March 1, 2014 Web Link

Aircraft Noise: The Ailment and The Treatment
By Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D. Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Jetman
a resident of another community
on Apr 19, 2014 at 12:47 am

The dramatic increase in commercial aircraft noise over Palo Alto is being discussed here: Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Julie
a resident of another community
on Apr 19, 2014 at 9:47 pm


Thanks for the links. I have read some of them previously. Also I was very interested to read the many comments from Palo Alto residents.

Yes, sending comments to the FAA pretty much seems like an exercise in futility. I got the distinct impression that they were humoring us.

When I asked them if this was part of Next Gen they looked very surprised that I was even aware of NextGen. No one said for certain that it was. It seemed to me that they were not at all eager to talk about it.

I have to say that I was surprised that FAA has an EPA department. Seems like such an oxymoron.

The increasing number and frequency of airplanes may be the noisy neighbor upstairs who never moves out, regardless of how much a disturbance they are to others who share that common space.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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