Joining Adam Ullman in his North Fair Oaks backyard for a weekday morning cup of coffee makes it clear just what he means when he calls the ongoing flight noise a "nuisance."
In less than 30 minutes, from 7 a.m. to 7:27 a.m. on Aug. 3, four aircraft fly overhead that flight tracking software used by San Francisco International Airport later showed were the PC-12 aircraft flown by SurfAir.
Three flights going toward the San Carlos Airport pass directly overhead, one at 838 feet above sea level, one at 939 feet and one at 1,241 feet. One flight taking off from the airport is higher, at 2,119 feet and also about 12 blocks away.
When the flights are overhead, conversation cannot be heard from one side of the backyard picnic table to the other.
On July 5, Surf Air received permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly a new approach to the San Carlos Airport that is mostly over the San Francisco Bay. But the airline can only fly the route under visual conditions, when the pilots can see the airport from Mountain View.
Mr. Ullman says that means that with the Peninsula's typical summer conditions of early morning fog, much of the time Surf Air is still flying the route it always has, directly over his backyard.
"I've become so attuned to that prop noise that I hear it far off," he says. "We are now acutely aware of every aircraft over our head."
In the summertime when people have their windows open, "that's when the impact is the greatest," he says. "We have this beautiful weather you want to be able to enjoy the outdoors."
Anything the county has tried so far has been voluntary and just isn't a long-term solution, he says. "The lawsuit really is to get a permanent solution in place."
"If we win on appeal," he adds, "it reinforces that they have to do something."
Since 2006, the Ullman family has lived in North Fair Oaks, an unincorporated area near Atherton, between El Camino Real and U.S. 101. Part of the reason the family likes the neighborhood, in addition to its convenient location, is that "it's quiet," he says. Or was until Surf Air began flying overhead in 2013.
Other planes do fly overhead, on their way to the San Francisco International Airport. But those planes don't have the same irritating effect that the Surf Air planes do, Mr. Ullman says. "It's that low rumble it's the bass. It resonates differently."
Plus, he says, research has shown the planes Surf Air flies are actually noisier than many jets. "The PC-12 is louder than a 757," he says.