News

Eshoo on aircraft noise: FAA knows 'something has changed dramatically'

Meeting with community groups, public officials seeks short- and long-term remedies

The Federal Aviation Administration "clearly knows something has changed dramatically" with regard to local aircraft noise issues, said Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Menlo Park, following a recent meeting with FAA representatives. "There's an acknowledgement of what the issues are. The next challenge is to identify with the FAA what are the short-term issues to be addressed."

Four FAA representatives met with about 30 people at Palo Alto City Hall on July 24 about aircraft noise, which residents say has increased dramatically since the agency introduced new flight paths over the Bay Area. The new NextGen aviation program is designed to modernize U.S. airspace, prepare for future increased air traffic and reduce fuel consumption.

In response to her constituents' concerns, Rep. Eshoo convened the meeting with the FAA to discuss the magnitude of the problem over Bay Area skies. The meeting was closed to the general public and the media.

FAA officials said the meeting was an excellent exchange of information. "We felt we got a fairly good understanding from a personal level of why there is concern," said Glen Martin, Western-Pacific Region regional administrator for the FAA. "There was a lot of discussion on the measurement of impacts and where current standards don't address the impacts. We will look into research to make changes to understand where that (gap) is."

Noise complaints throughout the Bay Area have jumped during the past year. San Francisco International Airport's Noise Abatement office received about 14,000 noise complaints last year. In June 2015, they received about 16,000 and this July will exceed that number, officials said at the meeting, according to attendee David Fleck of residents' group Calm the Skies.

Midpeninsula residents say they bear the brunt of the problem. Three flight paths from San Francisco International Airport cross directly over the area.

Mr. Martin said FAA officials plan to address the noise through short-term and longer-term changes. One possible shorter-term change might be to alter flights between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., he said. "We can look at rates (of flights) and altitude, review those, and make changes to those," he said.

In the longer term, the FAA could look at flight routes, he said, but that is a more complex process. Officials had not yet identified which ideas they might try to implement – in the short or long term – but they were taking back all of the ideas and information for review.

"Right now we're working closely with Congress," Mr. Martin said. "We are having meetings that may include additional public meetings in the next couple of months to produce those (short term and long term) buckets."

The city of Palo Alto is considering funding a study that would look at flight data to analyze changes that have taken place since NextGen. The city might, alternatively, analyze flight traffic patterns and propose new routes, Councilman Tom Dubois said.

The possible study would go before the Policy and Services Committee for consideration and then to the City Council. The city is working to get other local governments to share the costs, Mr. Dubois said. If the city does press forward, Mr. Martin said FAA is open to looking at the study and to suggest parameters so that it would have outcomes the FAA would see as relevant.

Asked about complaints that have affected some cities more than others, such as flights by turbo-propeller planes by the air-shuttle company Surf Air, Mr. Martin said it was clear that the problem is much larger than one airline or airport.

The meeting largely focused on noise out of SFO, but San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley reportedly pressed the issue of Surf Air, and Mr. Martin agreed to a separate meeting with local FAA representatives present to specifically address that airline company. Mr. Horsley agreed to organize that meeting with Mr. Martin.

Members of Sky Posse, the Palo Alto-based citizens' group working to reduce airplane noise levels, said the meeting with FAA was productive.

"Congresswoman Eshoo was brilliant at working with everybody," said member Stewart Carl. "She put a lot of pressure on FAA to come back with some concrete plans. I felt it was productive. There were lots of good ideas and suggestions."

FAA officials did not comment on individual solutions, he added.

Sky Posse member Jim Herriot said having a facilitator at the meeting helped to keep the discussion moving forward.

"He was able to distill the right tones. Instead of handing us cliches, they wanted to hear personal testimony," Mr. Herriot said.

Palo Alto's representatives included Mayor Karen Holman, Councilmen Dubois and Eric Filseth, Assistant City Manager Ed Shikada and Senior Management Analyst Khashayar Alaee.

Attending from Portola Valley was council member Maryann Derwin; from Woodside, council member Dave Burow; from Menlo Park, council member Peter Ohtaki; and from Atherton, council members Elizabeth Lewis and Mike Lempres.

Ms. Holman appeared to be fairly satisfied with this first meeting, but she did not have illusions of a quick solution.

"There were some indications of where we can collaborate with the FAA and (where) we can work toward some progressive solutions. What has to happen is they have to address real impacts on the ground -- on physical and emotional wellbeing," she said.

Mr. Dubois said the meeting was encouraging. "The FAA offered to work with our staff so as to not waste time and money (on data) that the FAA is going to ignore," he said.

Alternate flight routes, a major demand among residents and government officials, are a complex matter. There is a process for proposing new routes, and FAA officials said they would help propose the new routes in the right way, he said.

FAA's No. 1 concern is safety, he said. Air traffic and fuel efficiency, two of the major objectives outlined in the 2012 Reauthorization Act that launched NextGen, would be the biggest challenges to changing flight paths.

If these flights could be moved they would probably go over the ocean, and those longer routes would negatively affect some of the Act's objectives.

"The tradeoff is the impact on the environment – noise vs. fuel costs," Mr. Dubois said.

Some attendees came away with a sense that the problem has much policy-related complexity.

"I learned that the problem is policy driven," Los Altos City Councilman Jean Mordo said, "and will require much more change at the congressional level. On some levels, it is a national and international problem."

But Rep. Eshoo said she thinks new legislation won't be necessary to fix the problems. "I believe we can work within the jurisdictions and the statutes. We don't need to change the laws. I believe the FAA can implement changes that will bring relief regionally," she said.

The Bay Area could serve as a model for resolving the airplane noise issues that are plaguing metropolitan areas throughout the country, she said, but both Rep. Eshoo and Mr. Martin stressed that doesn't mean that "one size fits all."

From Rep. Eshoo's perspective, there is a potential to demonstrate that a partnership between the FAA and regions within the various metroplexes around the country can work. That hasn't been the case in some areas, such as Phoenix, which is now suing the FAA over the airplane noise.

FAA has made some changes in some of the other metroplexes, but Mr. Martin backed away from saying that there will be solutions. "Solutions tend to say that people are satisfied. We've made adjustments when we've found procedures to make adjustments," he said.

Rep. Eshoo and FAA officials also attended a meeting in Santa Cruz. FAA will hold a separate meeting in Rep. Jackie Speier's district in San Mateo County next month.

Comments

16 people like this
Posted by Michael
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Jul 29, 2015 at 12:18 pm

Thank you Anna Eshoo for investigating this problem for us.


12 people like this
Posted by Hereshoping
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Jul 29, 2015 at 12:31 pm

Yeah, well...it only took three years of begging and pleading to get Anna to finally get involved again. As well, our own Town government (aside from Maryann, who has always been an active advocate for aircraft noise control) wanted no part of it until individual citizens hired an attorney, at their own expense. The thanks should really go to them, and to Maryann.

Here's hoping that Anna can get some serious results---I would certainly appreciate new legislation that defines limits AND punishment for exceeding those limits in frequency, noise, and altitude. SFO and the FAA have no incentive whatsoever to control aircraft noise anywhere. Let's give them some.




3 people like this
Posted by Matt
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Jul 29, 2015 at 1:18 pm

Applaud Eshoo for downplaying the Surf Air hysteria and acknowledging that the problem is much larger than one single airline. Surf Air is a drop in the bucket compared to commercial and private traffic. Now let's see if actions back up those words.


2 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jul 29, 2015 at 3:51 pm


Thanks Mr. Horsley for keeping the problem with Surf Air in the mix. When you have 20 flights a day at 800' above your house you could appreciate our problem,


6 people like this
Posted by Earplugs
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jul 29, 2015 at 9:02 pm

I'm curious why the impact of noise was not part of the initial planning when the NextGen routes were developed. Isn't there any type of Environmental Impact Report required?


19 people like this
Posted by Jetman
a resident of another community
on Jul 29, 2015 at 9:20 pm

Earplugs,

The aviation indistry lobbied congress for, and received a "categorical exclusion" or CATEX. The CATEX exempts the FAA from doing a federally required environmental impact study, if they complete a preliminary study, and issue a "finding of no significant impact" or FONSI. The FAA did a preliminary study of the Norcal Metroplex, and issued a FONSI for "nextgen" implementation. A group in Portola Valley is mounting a legal challenge to the FAA's FONSI.

"Locals sue FAA over aircraft noise"
The Almanac ~ October 1, 2014 Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 30, 2015 at 10:35 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

What most posters are missing is that NextGen is a tool - not a policy decision.

Instead of cursing the darkness please light a candle and work to incorporate ACDA and herringbone approaches into the implementation of NextGen approaches into SFO.

Sent from UA 931 enroute from London to SFO.


10 people like this
Posted by Jetman
a resident of another community
on Jul 31, 2015 at 10:08 pm

While it is technically correct to say the FAA COULD use "nextgen" to spread-out the flight paths and provide some relief to those impacted on the ground, the FAA has implemented "nextgen" routes at dozens of airports throughout the country, and in NO case has the FAA ever used "nextgen" to spread-out the flight paths.

The FAA is using "nextgen" to achieve "efficiency". When the FAA talks about "efficiency" they are talking about at least three different kinds of efficiency:

1. FUEL efficiency - this is the type of efficiency we all understand, and most commonly associate with the word efficiency.

2. MANAGEMENT efficiency - this means managing as many planes as possible, with as few air traffic controllers as possible.

3. AIRSPACE efficiency - this means cramming the airlines into as small of a portion of the airspace as possible, to make the remainder available to other types of aviation... especially aviation who's operations are fundamentally incompatible with piloted craft.


"The FAA's Enormous Drone Problem"
Left Seat ~ November 13, 2013 Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 1, 2015 at 7:35 am

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

@jetman:

interesting article, but it certainly doesn't back up your claim no 3. The FAA hasn't even begun to figure out how to integrate drones into the air space let alone begin to implement a plan. They don't have a plan.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 1, 2015 at 9:06 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

With a little bit of homework this is a solvable problem.

NextGen is a tool, not a policy making device.

Using both A-CDAs and herringbone approaches with the NextGen technology would work perfectly to better distribute both flights into SFO and SJC and the SurfAir flights into San Carlos:

"In the Netherlands, the NLR (a government research agency) has also started a research project on A‐CDA. The curved approach path consists of straight and circular segments. A constant glide path angle (normally 3°) is maintained along the entire path, including the turns.

"But while curved CDAs offer greater flexibility in designing approach routes they still suffer from the issue of concentration. Some respite could be provided to residents if more than one CDA approach can be used for each runway. This is possible if aircraft can turn on to the final straight leg of a CDA at different intervals, creating a series of approach paths with different entry points. This would maintain many of the benefits of CDA while creating greater flexibility to reduce the number of overflights at any given location and to provide respite periods.
These entry points could be either side of the straight leg, creating a "herringbone" effect"


from An AEF Report for HACAN on:
Approach Noise at Heathrow: Concentrating
the Problem
*****
It is time to stop cursing the darkness and to start applying the tools we have like NextGen and the superb operational analysis that has already been done in studies like the above cited HACAN report.


Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 1, 2015 at 5:20 pm

Hi Peter,

Can the herringbone approach work for spreading out the surf air single Ameby approach.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 1, 2015 at 6:39 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Can the herringbone approach work for spreading out the surf air single Ameby approach."

Yes but it would no longer be the Ameby approach but rather a new NextGen approach with multiple entry points to the final 297 deg course.


Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Aug 1, 2015 at 6:50 pm

Have yet to hear or read anything from Eshoo?


6 people like this
Posted by Jetman
a resident of another community
on Aug 1, 2015 at 11:34 pm

Menlo,

The idea that the FAA "hasn't even begun to figure out to integrate drones into the airspace" is very naive. The FAA has been working on how to integrate UASs (drones)into the US airspace for years, It turns out the solution to integration, is segregation.

"Integrating UAS into NextGen Systems"
MITRE ~ August 17, 2011 Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 2, 2015 at 8:14 am

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

jetman:

my statement was based upon the previous article you posted. If you're going to post something to back up a claim don't you think it actually should? And per the youtube video you posted, Mitre is working on INTEGRATION into the FAA air traffic control system, not segregation as you claim. So do you have anything documenting your claim that the FAA's solution is segregation?


Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 2, 2015 at 12:34 pm

"Can the herringbone approach work for spreading out the surf air single Ameby approach."

Yes but it would no longer be the Ameby approach but rather a new NextGen approach with multiple entry points to the final 297 deg course.

Peter,

That would be great, How far out before they would have to abandon the herringbone and be forced to be on the 297 into the airport?

There's always an answer or a comprimise.

Thanks,


2 people like this
Posted by Thank you
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 2, 2015 at 3:45 pm

Thank you Congresswoman Eshoo!


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 2, 2015 at 4:38 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"That would be great, How far out before they would have to abandon the herringbone and be forced to be on the 297 into the airport?"

In clear weather intercepts to the final course could be made as close as 1-2 miles from the end of the runway.

In instrument conditions intercepts to the final course would probably need to be much further out.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 3, 2015 at 10:32 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here is what a herringbone approach would look like:

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 3, 2015 at 11:16 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I propose that all of the concerned citizens and local officials formally request that the FAA establishes as the default SFO NextGen arrival procedure a herringbone design:

1 - that is on the 284 deg radial from SFO
2 - that has at least ten Curved Continuous Descent Approaches (Advanced CDA) that link to
that 284 deg radial with five on the Northeastern side of the radial and five on the
Southwestern side of the radial
3 - that the closest of these ACDA's connect to the 284 deg radial no closer than the DUMBA
intersection
4 - that the connection point for each of these ACDA's be at least one mile apart on each side
of the radial
5 - that between 6 AM and 10 PM each incoming aircraft be randomly assigned to one of the
ten individual ACDAs
6 - that between 10 PM and 6 AM incoming aircraft be assigned only to the two farthest out ACDAs


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 3, 2015 at 3:26 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Peter:

how's the herringbone work if you go NORDO? Is there some alternative IP?


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 3, 2015 at 4:05 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The IAP for the approach I described would be specified in the approach plate - and in this case would probably be MEHTA.


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

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