San Mateo County's Board of Supervisors will meet Tuesday morning, June 27, to consider spending close to $1 million over three years on actions related to the San Carlos Airport and the noise complaints it has been receiving since Surf Air began using the airport in June 2013.
On the agenda for the meeting, which starts at 9 a.m. at 400 County Center in Redwood City, is an authorization to: hire an airport communications specialist to work with the public and pilots; hire a contractor to investigate new air routes that would avoid residences; and hire a contractor who would automatically track flights using the airport. If approved, all three components of the plan would be put in place for three years.
Atherton officials on June 23 sent a letter to the county asking that three additional actions be undertaken immediately: submitting a county airport curfew ordinance to the Federal Aviation Administration; adopting a resolution declaring the airport has a “noise problem” and sending it to the California Department of Transportation; and submitting to the FAA a proposal for a county ordinance limiting the number of scheduled flights per operator using the San Carlos Airport.
Atherton Mayor Mike Lempres said the town's understanding is that the FAA would have to approve a curfew or limit on scheduled flights, but "the town would be happy to be wrong on that one," if the county can pass such ordinances without FAA pre-approval.
The airport communications specialist would be expected to "address noise/operational issues, make personal contact with pilots and community members, provide outreach and education to the public and pilots, and monitor and track noise complaints," according to the proposed resolution.
The specialist would receive $150,000 annually in salary and benefits.
The supervisors are also asked to approve contracting with Hughes Aerospace for three years, at a cost of $226,800, "to review and recommend flight paths into and out of the San Carlos Airport, develop instrument flight procedures for departure flights, and evaluate instrument approaches that support noise abatement procedures."
The third item, a contract with Vector Airport Systems for $313,695, would be for "an aircraft departure monitoring system, (that) provides real-time flight track data, automates the integration of flight track data into the Airport’s noise complaint system, allows timely and efficient monitoring of complaints and aircraft operations, and provides additional security for the airport after-hours."
Atherton's letter, which council members unanimously voted to send on June 21, urges the county "to take immediate actions to mitigate the continued unbearable noise created by the increasing flights into San Carlos Airport by the commercial chartered airline, Surf Air."
The letter says that residents and council members "have reached the tipping point." Four years of meetings and negotiations with Surf Air and the county have resulted only in "more daily flights, more early morning and late night flights and more surprises on the horizon as Surf Air launches growth in our area. This is unacceptable," the letter says.
The letter also refers to conversations Atherton council members have had with the FAA. "In direct conversations with the FAA, we were advised that the FAA would consider a formal request for noise abatement procedures for the San Carlos Airport. We are aware of no such formal submittal by the County. Why has the County not acted to protect its residents?" the letter says.
Atherton's letter asks that the county's proposed curfew not include aircraft flying to or from another state, and allow one takeoff or landing per operator during the curfew period.
The letter says that limiting scheduled flights per operator "is a non-discriminatory action that helps ensure that no single operator monopolizes airport resources and ensures that the airport is open to the entire community as was originally intended."
The letter says that the county's own legal research shows it "has more authority over the operation of the airport than originally believed."