Customers of Surf Air arriving or departing from the San Carlos Airport Saturday morning, June 17, were greeted by a crowd of protesters waving picket signs and passionately shouting, "No more Surf Air," and other slogans.
When one of the blue-and-white turboprop PC-12s used by the subscription-based commuter airline arrived, the group of protesters – numbering more than 50 people at times – moved to a chain-link fence to confront the five passengers who disembarked.
"No more Surf Air," the group chanted in unison. "You disturb our lives," shouted one protestor. "We've had it," yelled another.
Picket signs ranged from professionally printed signs that said "No Fair – No More Surf Air" to hand-drawn signs with slogans such as "Like a Bad Neighbor, Surf Air is There," "Horsley – Say Neigh to Surf Air" (aimed at county Supervisor Don Horsley), and "Surf Less, Sleep More." One said simply: "Surf Err."
"There are humans underneath these airplanes who are suffering so a few people can have a convenient service," said North Fair Oaks resident Heather Brinkerhoff, who was there with her 23-month-old son. The planes often wake up her son, she said, and make it unpleasant to be in their yard.
Ms. Brinkerhoff said her family previously lived near the train tracks in Menlo Park, so she's had experience with noise. But unlike train noise, which she said her family got used to, the noise from Surf Air's turboprop PC-12s is grating and impossible to ignore, she said.
One of Surf Air's customers had a suggestion for the protestors. "You guys ought to move," he said, as he exited the terminal and got into his car.
Winn Siegman, who has lived in North Fair Oaks for 29 years, said he'd never really even thought about the fact that there was an airport in San Carlos until Surf Air began using it.
Because Surf Air's Pilatus PC-12s carry fewer than nine passengers, under FAA regulations they may operate out of the San Carlos Airport even though it is a general aviation, not a commercial, airport. The airport is considered a "reliever airport," keeping small planes out of busy regional airports such as San Jose, San Francisco International and Oakland.
Mr. Siegman's sign expressed support for the San Carlos Airport, as did many of the other protestors.
"The airport is not at all the issue. The pilots are not the issue," said Tom Holt of Atherton, who lives under the flight path used most often by Surf Air. The issue is, he said, "just Surf Air and the noise they make."
Anna Traver and her husband, Michael Pagano, and many of their neighbors came from North Fair Oaks, an unincorporated neighborhood between Atherton and Redwood City that is also under Surf Air's flight path.
"The noise is getting increasingly incessant," Ms. Traver said, with planes waking her up at 5:45 a.m. and again at 11:30 p.m. "They're growing," she said of Surf Air, which recently announced it would add 48 weekly flights at the San Carlos Airport this summer.
Other protesters came from Sunnyvale and Cupertino, where Tony Guan said he has 200 flights headed to different airports going over his house daily.
"We really cannot take more," he said. Although the Surf Air flights are at a much higher altitude there than they are closer to the airport, the noise from the turboprop planes is impossible to ignore, he said.
The Sunnyvale and Cupertino residents said their main concern is that the attempts by San Mateo County and Surf Air to shift flights away from the communities close to the airport by sending planes over the Bay means more flights are going over their homes.
"It's a shifting of airplane noise," Mr. Guan said.
Airport Manager Gretchen Kelly, who was present for the entire protest, said there had been no incidents during the event and that she had enjoyed working with the group.
Surf Air director of communications Angela Vargo said the company, founded to "give busy professionals an alternative to commercial travel" has grown as have the number of flights. However, she said, in San Carlos, "Surf Air flights only account for 12 percent of the total traffic."
"We hear and understand the concerns of the residents and have been working diligently with government officials to reach a solution that is considerate of all residents living under the flight path from San Carlos to Sunnyvale," she said.
"We want all residents to know that we value their input and are committed to finding a solution," Ms. Vargo said.
Organizers of the protest estimate that 120 people took part during the 9 a.m. to noon protest, with about 30 to 40 of them from Sunnyvale and Cupertino.
Participants said they plan more protests, and have begun organizing one for the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors' offices in Redwood City.
• Earlier story: San Carolos Airport noise solutions prove elusive.