News

FAA approves Surf Air route to take planes over Bay

Company says changes go into effect July 5

Commuter airline Surf Air has received permission from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to start flying a new approach to the San Carlos Airport, sending its planes over the Bay from Moffett Field past the Dumbarton Bridge whenever conditions allow, starting on Tuesday, July 5.

The FAA on June 20 told San Mateo County, which owns and operates the San Carlos Airport, that the modified approach to the airport, which the county had asked for as a "noise mitigation measure," can be used as a test for six months.

County Airports Division Manager Gretchen Kelly said that at the end of the six-month period the FAA will decide whether to implement the new route on a permanent basis based on its operational effects, environmental consequences and community reaction.

The airline will be allowed to use the new route whenever conditions allow a visual approach to the airport and the flights do not interfere with other flights into nearby airports. Officials at the San Carlos Airport told the Almanac that a review of a year of weather records show that the approach could have been used 86 percent of the time in 2015.

Jim Sullivan, Surf Air's senior vice president of operations, said the airline will start using the new route on July 5.

"We're thrilled, obviously," he said. "We're very excited that this has all come together."

He said the airline has been ready to use the new route since the end of May, but was waiting for approval from the FAA. Surf Air had its "check pilots," who train other pilots, fly the route 31 times to evaluate it, and had "nothing but positive comments," he said.

San Mateo County Board of Supervisors President Warren Slocum, who represents the North Fair Oaks area that has generated many noise complaints about the Surf Air flights, said the county will be careful to note if the change in route generates noise complaints from other areas, such as the neighborhoods that lie between the current route and Moffett Field.

Ms. Kelly said the San Carlos Airport received only one noise complaint during the 31 test flights of the route in May; that was from a resident in Redwood City. She said the aircraft was approximately one lateral mile from the caller's home.

Supervisor Slocum said the board is also working on longer-term solutions to problems at the airport. While a report from consultants hired by the county to look at the airport will be presented on June 28, he said specific ideas and recommendations for action will not come back until October.

Supervisor Slocum said he and Supervisor Don Horsley, who represents the district including the airport and Atherton, which has also generated many complaints about Surf Air noise, have spent a long time working to resolve the issues.

"I know it's taken a long time," he said. "These things take time."

The county, and other local officials and residents, have been working with Surf Air since October 2013, just months after Surf Air started flying scheduled flights in and out of the San Carlos Airport in June 2013. The airline's small turboprop planes are especially noisy, residents who live under the flight path complain. The success of the airline, which allows its members to take unlimited flights, has led to the addition of more and more flights.

In March, the county supervisors approved a "San Carlos Aircraft Disturbance Study" to look at possible short- and long-term solutions.

The county has hired an aviation consultant, an aviation noise consultant and a polling firm to help with the research.

Adam Ullman, a North Fair Oaks resident speaking on behalf of the Calm The Skies citizens' group, said that residents have a number of concerns about the new route as a solution to the problems caused by Surf Air, including the fact that flying it is voluntary and that it can be flown only under certain conditions.

"The county needs to address the long-term planning of the airport and put in place reasonable measures to limit the impact of planes flying one thousand feet over our homes and schools," he said. "This does not accomplish that."

Mr. Ullman said the new route also "doesn't address the bigger issue of commercial service into" the San Carlos Airport "and what constitutes acceptable volume levels of service from any single operator."

"Without a permanent fix," he said, another such airline could come in "and we start from square one again."

Supervisor Horsley said the county is "conscious of the fact that (the new route) may impact other communities." He said the mayors of other cities Surf Air could begin flying over will be notified of the test.

"We don't really think it's fair to transfer the noise from one neighborhood to another," he said.

Changing Surf Air's approach route also does not eliminate all the problems at the airport, he said. The county is monitoring the noise from airport take-offs, which fly over different nearby neighborhoods as well. "That is a little tougher to control," he said.

He said the county is also looking at doing things such as building "additional airport hangars" for small private planes that would leave less tie-down space for planes the size of the ones Surf Air uses. "We have a big need for hangar space," he said, adding that there is a waiting list for hangars.

"We are looking at all of the policies and procedures at the airport as well," he said. "We want to make sure we do not end up with another commercial airline at the airport."

He apologized for the amount of time finding a solution has taken. "I wish it were faster," he said. "I know our constituents have suffered from this a long time."

Atherton's Mayor Elizabeth Lewis said that getting to the new route has taken a lot of work by a lot of people: the resident group, the supervisors, Rep. Anna Eshoo, staff at San Carlos Airport, Surf Air and the FAA.

"To get to this point is huge," she said.

"Hopefully during the six-month trial we will experience a significant reduction in overflight noise."

Mayor Lewis said she hopes that the supervisors will also look closely at how to best manage the numbers of regularly scheduled flights in and out of the airport and the times of flights.

"I believe that it is not suitable for use as a busy commercial airport," she said.

Comments

12 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 23, 2016 at 1:49 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Well done and Kudos to SurfAir and the FAA - the ONLY people who could actually solve this problem.


5 people like this
Posted by Whatever
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on Jun 23, 2016 at 3:11 pm

Wouldn't it be great if the FAA was as responsive to the rest of us, and would send the SFO planes back over the Bay as well, where they used to be. Money talks.


5 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 23, 2016 at 3:17 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

There is a specific proposal to do exactly that:

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Aug 27, 2015 at 3:35 pm
Peter Carpenter is a registered user.
IF you want a simple solution then Palo Alto should just request that the FAA do the follow three things:

1 - All SFO inbound traffic from the North and the East must use the RNAV (GPS) X RWY 28R approach and must enter that approach at the ANETE Initial Approach Fix (IAF) for which the minimum crossing altitude is 7000 ft,



Alternatively these aircraft could us the ILS or LOC RWY 28R approach and must enter at ARCHI IAF for which the minimum crossing altitude is 7000 ft,

Web Link

2 - All SFO inbound traffic from the South and the West must use the RNAV (GPS) X RWY 28L approach and must enter that approach at the Faith IAF which has a minimum crossing altitude of 7000 ft.,



Entry to this approach via MENLO intersection would not be permitted.

Alternatively these aircraft could us the ILS or LOC RWY 28L approach and must enter at the FAITH IAF for which the minimum crossing altitude is 7000 ft,


Entry to this approach via MENLO intersection would not be permitted.


3 - SFO and SJC must be landing in the same direction unless the wind differential between them is greater than 10 knots.

These recommendations use existing and established procedures and do not impinge on the SJC airspace.

If these recommendations were to be adopted then Palo Alto's problem would go away. Some communities further to the South would see significant increases in overflights but these would be at much higher altitudes.


8 people like this
Posted by Atherton Crybaby
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 24, 2016 at 9:20 am

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


4 people like this
Posted by Tired of Cronyism
a resident of another community
on Jun 24, 2016 at 7:38 pm

Congress backed FAA NextGen is about increasing capacity no matter the cost to human health and the environment which is why Congress made sure to pass legislation in 2012 that allowed the FAA administrator to file a categorical exclusion of impact to the human environment for new procedures, otherwise known as a finding of no significant impact or FONSI.

More and more flights year on year is THE goal leading to ever greater industry profits. Radar v. GPS navigation, while proponents and media love to focus on it, is not the point. This isn’t about the technology, but how it’s being used. GPS allows greater precision, but in order to fly aircraft closer together they needed to deal with the turbulence issue, or the wake that an aircraft creates. Enter the NextGen procedure of supposedly no significant impact to the human environment called Wake Recategorization or Wake Recat. Bring aircraft lower, hence the low altitudes as never before, into denser air which allows the aircraft to slow down and therefore safely fly closer together. Commercial aircraft on low altitude paths that now operate near and far from airports have resulted in general aviation aircraft flying lower than ever before as well.

The aviation industry has taken over the skies, whether you live near or far from an airport no longer matters. These low altitude paths are now blanketing the U.S. and the globe under different program names.

Quality of life has been robbed. Millions are now under the barrage of aircraft noise day and night. Our skies sound like a war zone. To date, elected officials have in the main done nothing of substance. We’ll know when they’ve done something because Americans will have sleep, restful waking hours, and enjoyment in the outdoors restored.

The noise enthusiasts don’t seem to realize their health is negatively impacted regardless of whether or not they are bothered by it. Don’t pay heed to those who attack you for wanting a quality of life we enjoyed pre-NextGen simply because they don’t value theirs.

Elected officials are doing the bidding of industry again and again and selling out their constituents. Surf Air is just one of many aviation outfits that leapt on the wave of Congress and FAA backed aviation expansion. They’re onto drones next.


4 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 25, 2016 at 8:07 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

tired:

if you want quiet, move to the countryside. You're not going to find it here, even if all aircraft were to magically disappear from the sky. There are MILLIONS of people in this area all making noise. Noise is part of living in an urban area.


2 people like this
Posted by Tired of Cronyism
a resident of another community
on Jun 25, 2016 at 5:55 pm

Menlo Voter:

[part deleted.] Quiet is not absolute silence, which doesn't exist in the countryside either. [part deleted.] This is about significant impact changes to the skies owing to the Congress back FAA/aviation industry NextGen program and aviation's expansion goals, of which Surf Air is a part.

[part deleted.]


2 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 25, 2016 at 7:36 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

tired:

not a "troll", just tired of people that live near three international airports and numerous other smaller airports whining because there is aircraft noise. Really? Aircraft noise near three international airports and numerous smaller airports? Who knew? It wasn't that way when you moved here? So what? Things change, especially with population growth and the consequent increase in demand for seats on airplanes and the additional demand for CHEAP seats. That's only accomplished by increasing supply. Which is what the FAA is working towards. If you don't like it, beat up the millions of people living in the Bay Area that DEMAND cheaper flights. I'm sure they'll fly less so you can have more quiet. <snort>


Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on Jun 25, 2016 at 8:56 pm

So now that Surf Air has proactively and patiently worked with the FAA -- the real decision-makers in this matter -- to alleviate much of the noise patterns, I'm wondering when all the haters will actually have the class and grace to acknowledge their efforts.

Probably never, which just proves my point that this was never really about the noise, right?


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 11, 2016 at 1:07 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I note that there has not been a single SurfAir flight over Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Atherton and North Fair Oaks since 9 AM Saturday morning.

Well done SurfAir.

Hopefully people appreciate this accomplishment.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 15, 2016 at 4:09 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

From 10 am Saturday, through the last arrival last night, SurfAir had 99 arrivals with 92 on the Visual via Bayside and only 7 on the AMEBY approach.

Flights this morning were on the AMEBY approach due to the cloud cover.

I presume those who were previously so outspoken about SurfAir will now offer their thanks.


2 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 15, 2016 at 5:44 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"I presume those who were previously so outspoken about SurfAir will now offer their thanks."

You presume wrong. Complainers Rarely if EVER acknowledge someone that addresses their complaint. In this case, given that most of the complainers are a bunch of entitled whiners, I'm sure they think, Surfair did what they "should have done in the first place so as not to disturb us entitled folks." After all the small amount of noise was "torture." Can you say histrionic? We will never hear anything from these people.


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

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