Committee forms to consider commercial aircraft noise remedies


Ann Wengert, a member of the Portola Valley Town Council, is one of 12 local elected officials named to a new committee formed to "develop regional solutions" on issues related to the noise of arriving commercial aircraft as they approach San Francisco International Airport.

The formation of the Select Committee on South Bay Arrivals reflects the collaboration of U.S. Congressional representatives Anna Eshoo (D-Menlo Park), Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo), and Sam Farr (D-Santa Cruz), according to an April 4 statement from Ms. Eshoo's office.

San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine is also on the committee, as is East Palo Alto City Councilman Larry Moody and Joe Simitian, who represented parts of San Mateo County in Sacramento for years and who is now a Santa Clara County supervisor.

The committee, with four appointees from each of the three Congressional districts in the South Bay region, will build on the work of previous aircraft noise-related efforts, will accept input from the public, will review proposals from the Federal Aviation Administration, and will make recommendations, primarily concerning aircraft passing over South Bay communities, the statement said.

"Establishment of this Select Committee is a critical step to address airplane noise that is plaguing our constituents," Ms. Eshoo said in the statement. "New flight paths implemented by the FAA have generated an alarming increase in noise impacts across my entire Congressional District. Large, small, urban, and rural communities have been affected, and the majority of noise complaints in my District involve arrivals at SFO. The Select Committee on South Bay Arrivals will work with the public and the FAA to expedite solutions to this problem."

— Dave Boyce

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1 person likes this
Posted by John McGraw
a resident of Portola Valley: Los Trancos Woods/Vista Verde
on Apr 4, 2016 at 1:49 pm

The questions I have is: Didn't the people who are complaining about the noise know that both the San Francisco and San Carlos airports exited when the moved in. All the committees in the world will not close or eliminate air traffic in the bay area. These committees are just a complete waste of time and designed the let people think there might be change, but in reality there won't be.

25 people like this
Posted by cullen
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 4, 2016 at 3:39 pm

cullen is a registered user.

I certainly disagree with John McGraw's [part removed - make your point without negative characterization of other posters, please] comment.

The idea that anyone is trying to "close or eliminate air traffic in the bay area" is completely over the top and has never been on the table. Returning the landings to the pre "next gen" landing patterns over the bay, which the peninsula had for many decades, would be a viable solution. Undoubtedly many other changes in the FAA should also be considered. With the backing of our peninsula Congressional delegation, progress can be made. I'm tired of my quality of life being ruined by this obnoxious noise for the past year. It appears Mr. McGraws solution is: do "nothing:. That's not acceptable.

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Posted by Arj
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 4, 2016 at 4:06 pm

Translation: put those damn planes over someone else's home!

12 people like this
Posted by Tired of Noise
a resident of another community
on Apr 4, 2016 at 4:28 pm

The noise will continue to get worse. The aviation industry wants to expand, and the Congress, through the FAA, has taken away the ability of local communities to have any control over their own airports. The owners of the airports didn’t fight that takeover because they want the increased revenue as well and don’t want to have to answer to their own communities.

In order to increase capacity the FAA started the NextGen procedures, which include low altitude approach and departure paths to enable them to decrease the distance between aircraft. So now communities that never used to hear a single aircraft are bombarded with noise. And since the number of flights has been increasing, the noise has been getting worse each year.

There is also the air pollution from all these extra flights. The FAA claims that NextGen will result in a decrease in the environmental impact of aviation, but even if the FAA’s claim about per-flight efficiency is accurate, the increase in the number of flights has more than offset any gains in efficiency, causing a net increase in pollution.

Ever expanding aviation is not sustainable, but the profits of the aviation industry are being put ahead of our health and the environment. If you want the aviation industry to listen the answer is simple: boycott. Don’t fly unless you have to and don’t have anything shipped by air.

3 people like this
Posted by Arj
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 4, 2016 at 4:31 pm

HSR to LA, anyone?

2 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 4, 2016 at 4:57 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"HSR to LA, anyone?"

Absolutely NOT.

6 people like this
Posted by cullen
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 5, 2016 at 8:53 am

cullen is a registered user.

Interesting. ARJ thinks that having planes landing pattern over the bay is the same as flying them over someone else's house. I'm not sure I know anyone who lives in a houseboat over the middle of the bay.

24 people like this
Posted by woodsider
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Glens
on Apr 5, 2016 at 12:28 pm

In a letter from Rep. Anna Eshoo addressing the issue, she states that noise complaints have increased 1000 fold since institution of the "next gen" funneling of flights over neighborhoods. This is not simply a not-in-my-backyard issue. These are large 747's arriving from the Pacific on a slow descent at 5000 feet directly above people's homes. These planes are loud. Loud enough to stop conversations inside your home, with the TV on in the background. Loud enough to wake a household with the first flights before dawn. This is our reality, ever day, over and over, all day long, into the night around midnight, and then beginning again at dawn.

These flight patterns were instituted as cost-saving measures without regard to quality of life. I'm fine with the changes in flight patterns due to weather or other safety issues, but these new flight patterns are not a solution.

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Posted by Arj
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 5, 2016 at 1:48 pm

[Post removed. Please make your point without negative characterizations of other posters.]

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Posted by Artie
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 5, 2016 at 4:10 pm

I'm waiting for our local dog catchers to form their own investigatory committee as well. They have about as much influence here as all our town reps who are basically just rubber stamp hobbyists. Sorry if that seems crass, but it's true.

15 people like this
Posted by Woodsider
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Glens
on Apr 6, 2016 at 7:06 am

"Hyperbole" ... Sigh ... Arj, can you consider that possibly you don't live in the general flight paths? A plane 5000 ft directly overhead is going to be significantly louder than just a mile away... The planes are being funneled through discrete corridors and clearly you aren't in one of those. We don't just hear standard jet noise, we hear turbine whine from the engines. My wife wears ear plugs so she doesn't get woken up at 5:30 every day with the first flights. Try downloading one of the flight tracking apps, I use flightradar24, which show the previous and projected paths planes over the peninsula take. If you're not in that path then those of us who are would appreciate an ounce of consideration.

1 person likes this
Posted by Arj
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 6, 2016 at 9:45 am


I spend time (some day and lot of night) all over the Peninsula. Far noisier areas than the Glens (spent time there recently as well.) Try San Mateo. Foster City. San Bruno. San Jose. Skyline on the weekends. Any home near the train tracks. Near 101 or ECR.

If you are sticking with: "Loud enough to stop conversations inside your home, with the TV on in the background."

Then, yeah, you lose a lot of people .

And I had to interrupt typing this note to close the window - my neighbor's garden service just arrived.

25 people like this
Posted by Tired of Noise
a resident of another community
on Apr 6, 2016 at 10:18 am

If noise does not bother you, that's fine, but keep in mind that studies show that the physiological effects are still the same - your health suffers whether or not you care about the noise.

People have the right to sleep and the quiet enjoyment of their homes.

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Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 6, 2016 at 1:02 pm

have to agree with Arj, that this is quite an exaggeration on the part of Woodsider.
"Loud enough to stop conversations inside your home, with the TV on in the background."

These planes fly directly over my house. Yes, I can hear it inside, but never has a conversation been interrupted and I can't hear it with the TV on. Only time I can hear a plane inside my home is if it is completely quite in the house, and we have old windows.

While this is a real issue for some people, I am interrupted way more by leaf blowers, contractors, the train, street noise, the kid next door etc...

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Posted by Arj
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 6, 2016 at 1:14 pm

"@Arj If noise does not bother you, that's fine"

I didn't say that. Try reading again - I'm just reminding the "anti's" that gross exaggeration tends to lose people.

20 people like this
Posted by Jason Parekh
a resident of another community
on Apr 6, 2016 at 6:32 pm

Jason Parekh is a registered user.

John McGraw, Arj and MPer:

I'm shocked at how quickly you dismiss the concerns of your neighbors! Maybe your house is currently unaffected, but don't assume our complaints aren't valid. I, too, experience noise so loud that my windows shake and I have to stop conversations--multiple times a day! And my whole house is awakened at night by large 747 cargo planes--at 1am, 2am, 5:30a, and 6:30a!

Your position is: "Airplane noise isn't a problem for me, so it must not be a problem for anyone. Let's give priority to the issues which are bothering me". I don't have problems with traffic or speeding in my neighborhood, but that doesn't mean I don't have sympathy for those who do, or that I shouldn't support their efforts to make our communities safer or more healthy.

The FAA concentrated plane noise over San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz counties when they built a "highway in the sky" (their term) over our heads! Why? To shave a few miles off the routes so airlines can save on fuel! The airlines' cost of business MUST accommodate the health of people on the ground--it should be part of their cost of doing business!

Los Altos, Palo Alto, and other cities now have 200+ flights flying overhead in a single day, and those flights are much noisier than before. Flights previously 'idled' over my home in Los Altos at a slow, glide descent. Now planes are applying thrust and braking to stay in the narrow corridor defined by the FAA which makes idle descent impossible.

The FAA bypassed environmental review by unilaterally declaring the changes would have "no significant impact". The flood of complaints tells a different story: 100x increase since the NextGen changes in March 2015 and still growing exponentially! This is in spite of the total number of planes landing at SFO being basically flat over the past 8 years. I don't see how anyone could plausibly argue that these complaints are all from NIMBY complainers or people who are 'too sensitive to noise': something changed a year ago to generate all these complaints and the motivate our Congressional representatives to take action--and that something is the FAA's NextGen rollout.

Also, this issue is bigger than just the Bay Area: San Diego, Chicago, Phoenix, New York, Washington DC, Boston are all fighting the FAA. See to get an idea of what's going on. The FAA has repeated the same problem all around the country. Their NextGen project was billions of dollars and years behind schedule and, under congressional pressure, they rushed the implementation and rollout--and they botched it. Now the FAA is burying their head in the sand, hoping to just wait until everyone has 'habituated' to the noise or we're tired of fighting.

Those of us who are fighting are taking time out from everything else (and spending money out of pocket) to challenge the FAA's unjust actions and to protect everyone's health and property values. This issue would not be getting so much attention (including in Congress) if this were "no big deal".

The FAA's other goal with NextGen is to increase capacity. Skies over your home may be free of aircraft now but you might not be so lucky in the future: more planes (and commercial drones) are coming (FAA prediction is for 60% more commercial planes over the next 20 years).

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Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 6, 2016 at 6:59 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.


you make some big assumptions.

You assume that aircraft don't fly over my house. Wrong, they do. Often and at the same hours they fly over yours. They don't "shake my windows" and they don't stop my conversations (hyperbole). Maybe you should explore insulation or double pane windows.

And yes the FAA is trying to increase capacity. Because that is what people are demanding. They demand it when they ask for lower air fares. That only happens with increased capacity. Increased capacity equates to lower fares. You know, the old "supply and demand." If you don't care about air fares then good for you. The majority of those living in the Bay Area DO CARE.

You bought a home in close proximity to THREE international airports. Did you think you were never going to have aircraft flying overhead? Did you think that as air traffic increased along with increasing population and demand that flight patterns would never change? Sorry, doesn't work that way.

2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 6, 2016 at 9:35 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"This issue would not be getting so much attention (including in Congress) if this were "no big deal"."

In fact this issue is not getting so much attention - there have be ZERO actions to date to make any changes and I doubt that there will be.

To their credit SurfAir has spread their flights out laterally and delayed the extension of flaps and landing gear and are buying quieter airplanes - but the critic ignore those facts.

As important as this issue is to some people it is very unimportant to most people.

23 people like this
Posted by Jason Parekh
a resident of another community
on Apr 6, 2016 at 11:25 pm

Jason Parekh is a registered user.

Menlo Voter:

I experienced a sudden and dramatic increase in airplane noise, virtually overnight, on March 4 2015. It's like someone flipped a switch. By your own admission, you are not seeing the same impact from the airplane noise as me (or many other people I've met).

Yet you are so quick to dismiss my experience and those of other people who have raised similar concerns? Unless you are sitting beside me at my house, how can you possibly know what the airplane noise is like where I am?

Perhaps you are assuming that the noise you experience at your home is the same as the noise I experience at mine?

When people talk about the horrible noise impact of NextGen, don't be so quick to label those impacts as hyperbole. If I had not experienced this personally, I might doubt the reports too but I'm telling you: I am not exaggerating.

My house is ~20 miles (as the plane flies) from SFO and, until a year ago, SFO airplane noise was virtually non-existent. And I live in a home which is 15 years old and has double-paned windows. And there are people who live 35+ miles from SFO who have reported similar impact, starting after March 4 2015.. The issue is not the construction of our houses, or our distance from the airport. The noise impact varies considerably depending on where you are (topography, background noise, elevation), and how the planes are being flown (thrust, flaps). The issue is the FAA's new procedures rolled out as part of NextGen which require the planes to fly lower, apply more thrust and, thus, burn more fuel and generate more noise.

Beyond your assumption that my noise must be the same as yours, you are also offering a strawman argument by attempting to reduce our complaints to 'not wanting any planes overhead': nobody is saying that.

And, in fact, your attempt to frame this as a capacity vs. noise argument is fallacious as well. There aren't any more flights coming into or leaving SFO (# of flights at SFO has been flat for several years and has actually decreased slightly from the peak), but the noise from those flights is *dramatically* worse. Clearly it is possible to get the same number of flights into SFO with less noise--because that is what we had before NextGen. And it should be possible to do even better with a proper NextGen rollout, with reduced separation requirements via more precise location tracking, and arrival/departure flow control to reduce delay vectoring.

In other words, the increased noise from the FAA's NextGen rollout isn't a property of the technology; rather it's a result of the FAA's failure to do adequate modeling and simulation, use of an inadequate 1970s-era noise standard (that does not align with current research), lack of concern for impact to people on the ground, and rushed implementation.

And, unfortunately for you: even if you don't (or can't) hear the planes, they are likely still affecting the health of you and your children, and your property values.

Recent research in the US and Europe has documented serious and lasting health impacts due to aircraft noise. Evidence indicates that the body’s response to a noise event at night, even when the individual continues to sleep, may lead to increased risk of higher blood pressure and long-term heart disease. See "Aircraft noise linked with heart problems", a study published by the Harvard School of Public Health in October 2013.

There is also robust evidence (from over 20 studies) to demonstrate that aircraft noise exposure has impacts on children’s reading comprehension and memory skills. See "Does noise affect learning? A short review on noise effects on cognitive performance in children", published by the National Institutes of Health in August 2013.

Finally, see "The Impact of Airport Noise on Residential Real Estate", published in The Appraisal Journal of July 2001, to understand the impact to our property values. Research shows that a sizable portion of the population will not buy or rent in a flight path. Even home buyers not bothered by the noise themselves are leery of purchases that might lose value later. Per the report, the decline in high end markets due to the advent of aircraft noise ranges from 3.3% to 22.5%. On a typical $2M home that could be anywhere from a $66,000 to $450,000 loss.

Thus, the economic argument you are attempting to make is also flawed. In economic terms, the market is not factoring in these externalities (health, learning, property values) and the government agency charged with managing our airspace (a valued public asset) suffers from regulatory capture. And key members of Congress, who should be holding the FAA accountable, are in bed with the airline lobbyists (literally in bed--search for House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster and his relationship with the chief lobbyist of Airlines 4 America!).

I applaud Reps. Eshoo, Farr, and Speier for their formation of the FAA Select Committee; it's a small step in the right direction. But the real fix that's needed here is legislative: Congress needs to mandate a robust community engagement process, including pre-decisional public hearings, for any new flight paths or procedures or changes to existing flight paths and procedures. That said, I don't hold out much hope for substantive action given the dysfunction in the current Congress.

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Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 7, 2016 at 7:05 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.


to boil down your screed to it's essentials, before March 4, 2015 you were hearing no aircraft noise. After that you are hearing a lot. So you want those aircraft pushed back over someone else where they were making noise over their homes? That about sum it up?

Your citation of all the problems of aircraft noise is pointless as well. The aircraft are going to be making noise somewhere, so someone will be disturbed, their health effected and their property values effected. You just don't want it happening to you.

18 people like this
Posted by Jason Parekh
a resident of another community
on Apr 7, 2016 at 10:37 am

Jason Parekh is a registered user.

Menlo Voter: I'm so glad you raised this question ("where should the FAA move the planes? Aren't you just going to move them over someone else?")!

While there are almost certainly people out there who are asking to move the noise over someone else's house, that's actually *not* what I am advocating.

If anything, before March 2005, the planes were actually *closer* to my house. The FAA's route change actually moved the planes about a mile further away from my house, yet the noise is *so* much worse!

This is, to me, the most amazing aspect of the FAA's NextGen screwup: they made the planes louder. As I explained above, the planes on arrival to SFO previously were on a glide slope (no thrust being applied) and they generated very little noise. Now those planes cannot glide: they must apply power and brakes to stay on the prescribed descent profile, and now they are very noisy.

So, if the FAA made minor telatively tweaks to the arrival procedures, including restoring the glide slope, they could significantly reduce the arrival noise and many of the complaints.

But it ispossible for them to do even better: if planes crossed over the peninsula at higher altitude (>10k ft), they could do most of their descent over the bay, and reduce noise below historical levels for everyone. This is one of the options that the FAA (and, soon, the Select Committee) is currently investigating, and what the FAA should have done the first time around.

Noise abatement doesn't need to be zero sum!

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