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Surf Air gets some noise from local residents

Original post made on Oct 1, 2014

At least 150 people showed up in Atherton on Tuesday night (Sept. 30) for a public meeting with officials from Surf Air, a small commuter airline that began flying in and out of the San Carlos Airport last June. Many said that the noise from the airline has affected their lives and, sometimes, their businesses.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, October 1, 2014, 11:20 AM

Comments (36)

Posted by Member One
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 1, 2014 at 3:39 pm

Yes this is more than an Atherton problem.
Glad to see Atherton is providing the forum for the residents of RWC, MP, PA, NFA who are affected by this problem.

I have to be critical of David's analysis results and presentation. If you tell a group of (150) educated, successful, motivated, and funded residents you can't do something ("ain't gonna happen, "can't fly over water," etc.), trust me, change will occur.

Also, this is not just a problem with Surf Air. At least one other airline is implicated in the noise issue. Jeff Potter assured us they do not fly before 10am or after 7pm. Someone out there with equally noisy aircraft is flying before and after those hours. Time to call them on the carpet.

Lastly, the glide path map provided on the Atherton website shows only 5 schools in harm's way. Not sure that was deliberate or an oversight, but I counted 15 schools. In the face of aircraft failure, the glide path means nothing, and with the history of Pilatus aircraft accidents, we should be concerned.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 1, 2014 at 3:57 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"with the history of Pilatus aircraft accidents, we should be concerned."

The PC-12 has one of the BEST safety records of any plane flying.

Posted by member One
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 1, 2014 at 4:06 pm

Peter, do some research before you post:
Web Link

BTW, didn't see or hear from you at last night's meeting...

Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 1, 2014 at 4:19 pm

Member one:

Did you read the actual accident reports of just the raw data. Most of the accidents are due to pilot error. That's not an aircraft problem. One was a maintenance issue and one was when a line man walked into a moving prop. I suggest you do a more thorough job of research before you start claiming an aircraft is unsafe.

Posted by matt from the block
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Oct 1, 2014 at 5:33 pm

matt from the block is a registered user.

There are dozens if not hundreds of planes flying over us day and night. If these planes didn't have "SurfAir" painted on them, no one would be complaining.

Completely out of touch with reality: SurfAir doesn't set their approach and takeoff routes.

Posted by Lemon Street Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 1, 2014 at 8:24 pm

I am a West Menlo resident. I am woken up on a regular basis with small plane noise going over my house between 4:30 am and 6:00 am. With Menlo Park being the "alternate" path for commercial airlines and construction starting before 8 am, it's never-ending noise. I feel like most of the residents are too busy to care or have just given up.

Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 1, 2014 at 8:43 pm

Member one:

I did your homework for you. Here's how it breaks down:

Accident Causes for the PC12 you posted:

Pilot Error: 12
Mechanical Problem compounded by pilot error: 2
Mechanical: 5
Mechanical caused by maintenance issue: 1
Ramp fatality: 1
Runway excursion/pilot error: 4
Runway excursion/mechanical problem: 2
Unknown: 2
Lightning strike: 1
Taxi accident(ground): 1
Runway collision with animal(ground): 1

So, of the 32 accidents cited by you a grand total of 8 were mechanical in nature while in flight which could theoretically result in a ground fatality. Please note that in NONE of these 8 cases were there ground fatalities. In addition, had the pilots in 2 of theses cases not made errors after the mechanical failure, they might have not resulted in crashes.

Eight accidents that were mechanical (could be "blamed" on the aircraft) in how many years? Sixteen. Eight accidents in sixteen years resulting in ZERO ground fatalities. Hardly the record of an "unsafe" aircraft. Don't believe me? Do your homework on similarly sized turbo powered aircraft and see what you find.

The Pilatus is one of the worlds safest aircraft. Anyone concerned about the safety of these aircraft to those on the ground is histrionic.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 1, 2014 at 9:10 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Peter, do some research before you post:"

The research on the RELATIVE safety of the pc-12 compared to ANY other aircraft type using San Carlos was done and posted long ago; The PC-12 has the best safety record of any airplane type using San Carlos.

"BTW, didn't see or hear from you at last night's meeting..."

No, I am at Scott AFB all week attending a much more important function.

Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 1, 2014 at 9:35 pm

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

The PC-12 has one of the highhest delivery rates (low failure rate) of any aircraft out there. The Pratt & Whitney PT6 is considered one of the safest turbines ever built......


Posted by JulieToo
a resident of another community
on Oct 2, 2014 at 12:09 am

JulieToo is a registered user.

Even if we were to agree that the PC-12 is safe, still, it is noisy.

The overriding issue, as expressed at last night's community noise.


Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 2, 2014 at 8:23 am

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Julie Too:

we live in an urban environment. We experience all kinds of noise. The leaf blowers are going in my neighborhood daily. The Surfair flights pass over once in a while and the noise lasts for all of about 20 seconds. Really? That's so terrible?

Posted by Jetman
a resident of another community
on Oct 2, 2014 at 10:01 am


It is not just SurfAir. The whole area is blanketed by aircraft noise 24/7.

1 day of air traffic over Palo Alto: Web Link

Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 2, 2014 at 12:43 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.


no kidding? We don't live in the country. We live in a large metropolitan area. We are exposed to plenty of noise 24/7 not just aircraft noise. to single out aircraft noise for special attention is patently absurd.

Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Oct 2, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Jetman --
There is no 24-noise. I go to work in the middle of the night -- am up at 2:30am and leave the house at 3:30am. I work 2 miles away from Atherton and also live in the area. I HAVE NEVER HEARD A PLANE at these hours.

Sometimes the train going through the area at about 1 a.m. wakes me for a minute....but actually, I think the train whistle is kind of nice.

In fact, the night silence is stunning. Amazing that such an urban area is so quiet.

Posted by Jetman
a resident of another community
on Oct 2, 2014 at 1:51 pm


There are 6-10 SFO bound flights that pass over Palo Alto (and other parts of the Peninsula) every night between midnight and 6:00am. The two worst offenders are KAL213 which has a scheduled arrival into SFO of 1:05am and UAL645 which crosses over Palo Alto around 4:30am. The UAL645 "red-eye" from HNL passes over PV/Woodside, and Palo Alto, on its way to SFO.

Many people in Palo Alto are reporting that their sleep is disturbed around 4:30am.

The time and course of these flights, and other nighttime flighs, can be easily confirmed using the "wayback" feature in SJC's Webtrak app. Web Link

Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Oct 2, 2014 at 2:36 pm

Oh, so not it's not Surf Air but all planes???

You live in a metropolitan area with 3 airports. You want to change the safety requirements of landing planes? Or, do you just want to route traffic over EPA and RWC? They get planes too. And folks in San Carlos, San Mateo, Burlingame, Milpitas, and South San Francisco have more airplane and urban noise than Palo Alto and Atherton.

Move to a rural area if you never want to hear a plane.

Or, just shut your bedroom window. If you still hear an airplane, your house must have no insulation whatsoever or you are sleeping outside.

As I said, I go to work in the middle of the night and am always amazed at how quiet it is.

Posted by SMCresident
a resident of another community
on Oct 2, 2014 at 4:13 pm

Agree that all of you who complain about SurfAir should have picked another place to live - like the westside of Atherton or Menlo or Portola Valley or Woodside that isn't sandwiched in between 101, Caltrain, El Camino and pre-existing airplane route for major commercial airlines like United, Virgin, etc. Those are the real noisemakers! Not SurfAir. We used to live in the Willows in Menlo near 101 and never heard a plane but heard lots of freeway noise through the night, so we moved to Redwood City where we got a bigger house for less money and less noise. We're still under the path of big airplanes but we don't hear them - and we certainly don't hear the little SurfAir planes and we're closer to the airport than Atherton/MP folks. SurfAir is critical to the success of many fledging, small businesses that are looking for a more cost-effective and efficient way to run their companies than relying on commercial airlines. Anti-SurfAir folks are sounding a bit anti-business and pro-government intervention. I don't want the County or FAA over-regulating anything and I certainly don't want a handful of disgruntled Atherton folks deciding what the SM County or other cities should be doing!!!

Posted by YouGottaBeKidding
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 2, 2014 at 4:40 pm

Yes, great suggestion @SMCresident. Woodside and Portola Valley are perfect places to enjoy quiet, no noise, aircraft free living.

Here's how perfect your suggestion is: Web Link

Also, get your other facts right: Majority of the disgruntled folks are in Menlo Park. Based on the petition results presented on Tuesday:
Menlo Park: 285
Atherton: 112
Palo Alto: 57

Almost 600 have signed total. I'd say that's more then a handful. You can see it here: Web Link

Sadly, there is an absent city government in Menlo Park on this issue, and it appears they don't care about what their residents think, so the Atherton Town Council has to do the job for Menlo Park. Sad.

Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 2, 2014 at 6:06 pm


this is outside the control of any city council. The FAA controls flight paths. Years ago a bunch of folks got all up in arms about San Carlos Airport and the San Mateo County Supervisors got all up on their high horses. Nothing came of it. The FAA controls the safe movement of aircraft. That safety is primary. Noise issues take a back seat. City councils can't do squat except posture.

Be happy Surfair is willing to be a "good neighbor" and work with folks regarding the issue of noise. If they wanted to, Surfair could give you all the finger and tell you to go pound sand and nothing would change at all.

Posted by Chance
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Oct 2, 2014 at 8:59 pm

The pro-airplane crowd (mostly pilots and their friends) has always had this strident, know-it-all, you're stupid attitude. In their view, anything with two wings and an engine is Godlike.

Posted by Bad Neighbor
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 2, 2014 at 9:12 pm

If I had a "good neighbor" that made as much noise as Surf Air does 11 times a day, I could have him arrested.

After a year of Surf Air working with folks, nothing has changed. Oh, except that Surf Air are taking delivery of 15 new aircraft and adding another flight to San Carlos so we can enjoy unacceptable noise levels 12 times a day.

That feels like the middle finger and pounding sand to me.

Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 3, 2014 at 8:00 am

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Bad Neighbor:

was the airport there when you bought your home? Seriously, 20 to 30 seconds of noise 11 times a day is intolerable? Where do you think you live? Hint: you're not in the country, you're in a major metropolitan area.

Posted by Enough
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 3, 2014 at 8:40 am

Surf Air was not there when we bought our houses.

Posted by Redwoods
a resident of another community
on Oct 3, 2014 at 9:49 am

@ Bad Neighbor - Looks who's the bad neighbor now - Atherton/MP. SurfAir changed it's routes to placate Atherton/MP and now they're flying over other parts of Redwood City - and the Peninsula. But Redwood City is not complaining. Having an airport nearby with a cost-competitive airline is good for business development - and with better businesses, comes a stronger local economy, job creation, better restaurants, stores, and other urban amenities that we all enjoy (including our Atherton/MP neighbors). That only makes our property values go up, not down. So like I said, we're not complaining about the noise - seems insignificant on the grand scheme of things since our overall quality of life has improved.

Posted by Jetman
a resident of another community
on Oct 3, 2014 at 10:55 am


The idea that the airport is an economic benefit to the area is pure speculation and wishful thinking on your part. Any benefits must be weighted against the costs. What are the costs of increased cardiovascular disease which is associated with aircraft noise? What are the cost in productivity due to sleep disruption? What are the costs in lost property values due to the noise? What are the costs to the taxpayers in the form of government subsidies that are used to maintain these airports?

"NextGen" is a perfect example of the government largess that forms the foundation of the aviation industry.

"NextGen" was originally forecast to cost $40 billion, split between government and industry, and to be completed by 2025. But an internal FAA report estimates it will cost three times that much and take 10 years longer to complete... FAA officials have largely stopped talking about end dates and completion costs as the technologies that make up NextGen continue to evolve."

"After a decade of work and billions of dollars spent, the modernization of the U.S. air traffic control system is in trouble"
Associated Press ~ October 28, 2013 Web Link

Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 3, 2014 at 3:18 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.


Surfair might not have been there when you bought your home, but the airport was. So what if Surfair wasn't?

Posted by JulieToo
a resident of another community
on Oct 3, 2014 at 5:15 pm

JulieToo is a registered user.


Re: "...since our overall quality of life has improved."

Has it? Who have you been listening to?

There is serious discontent up and down the peninsula. The noise we are forced to absorb, yes! That, coupled with the air pollution that it creates on a cumulative basis.

More, a large group of residents in Redwood City are just sickened by the unrestrained building development that is being allowed there by the "asleep at the wheel" City Council and Community Planners. No more set-back regulations! Under-provided parking spaces that do not follow building requirements for square footage.

They may as well crumple up the plans and toss them...because it seems nobody is doing plan checks anymore these days. A short 10 years ago, if you were a builder-developer,...just TRY to get away with this kind of sloppy and excessive development.

But back to noise. Same thing there. It is excessive.

SOME measure of limits need to be established for things.
Unless you want to live in an anarchy of "anything goes".

Maybe the time has come for people to "say when".

Just say when. Just say enough.

Posted by Jetman
a resident of another community
on Oct 3, 2014 at 10:22 pm

Menlo Voter,

The "who was here first" argument is just silly. If you take the "who was here first" argument to its logical conclusion... I am sure there were people living all over the Peninsula long before the Wright brothers ever made their first flight, so residents were here long before the airports.

Palo Alto was already a thriving town when Stanford University was founded in 1891. I took a walk on campus last Sunday evening between 7:00 and 9:00pm and there was a loud jet passing overhead every 4-5 minutes for the entire two hours. Who was there first?

Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 4, 2014 at 7:36 am


in the case of Stanford, They were there first and have legitimate right to complain. Most of those complaining now and the house they live in weren't there before the airports. When those homes were built and sold the airports were there. You don't buy a home next to a hog farm and then have any legitimate expectation of being able to complain about the smell.

Likewise you don't buy a home in the vicinity of three international airports and numerous smaller airports and have a reasonable expectation of not hearing noise.

Posted by Jetman
a resident of another community
on Oct 4, 2014 at 1:28 pm

Menlo Voter,

The "who was here first" argument is still silly, but from Wikipedia:

Palo Alto was established by Leland Stanford Sr. when he founded Stanford University, following the death of his son, Leland Stanford Jr. The city includes portions of Stanford...

So, by your standard, both Stanford University, and the City of Palo Alto "were there first and have legitimate right to complain"... correct?

Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 4, 2014 at 1:54 pm

The City yes, the people that live in it now, no.

You know what else is silly? Buying a home in an area with three international airports and multiple smaller airports and expecting to not have aircraft flying overhead or experiencing noise form those aircraft. In fact, it's beyond silly it's stupid.

Posted by Silly
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 4, 2014 at 4:56 pm

Your logic is broken Menlo Voter. Who is here first is irrelavent to the argument. The argument should be centered around what is good for communities "now". Otherwise we could have unconstrained everything. We have noise laws, not because the gardener was here working in this neighborhood years before I arrived, but because it's not something people want at 7am in the morning.

When cell phones were created, there was no foresight that laws would not be adequate, and thus we modified driving laws and we no longer can text while driving. That happened as a result of better understanding of the consequences of distracted driving. Your logic would suggest the cell phone came first, therefore, let everyone text or do whatever they want while driving.

I live in a democracy for a reason - it allows us to make changes to our lives, by applying sensible thinking to solve problems. Your's is not sensible thinking because it avoids the issue of the noise that is being created and the impact it has in the community. Your position about preserving aircraft rights regardless of the consequences on people, or the overall environment because the airport was here first, suggests you have limited knowledge of how society works.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 4, 2014 at 5:42 pm

I doubt that the democratic majority of the Bay Area would support closing the Bay Area airport. We all benefit from these airports and we all share the costs. It is a very good deal.

Posted by David Fleck
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 4, 2014 at 6:43 pm

Peter, this issue is about the noise and it's not about closing the airport. You are misguiding everyone if you imply - as you just did - that the community wants the airport to shut down. We don't.

Posted by Dave
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 4, 2014 at 7:48 pm

I don't think SurfAir is moving the traffic around; they are sticking right with the GPS approach all the time. My complaint is that they flying the GPS approach all the time at an altitude appropriate only when you have to get below the clouds. You can look at the ground tracks and altitudes on and see that the ground track doesn't vary.

If they delayed their descent longer on clear days, they'd be higher and at a lower power setting (less noise). With a single engine airplane (even a turboprop like Surfair), you need to be high enough to be able to execute an emergency landing if you lose the engine. I fly 2500' or higher on approach into San Carlos for just that reason, and they can too.

Potter is new, and I'm willing to take him at his word for now. He's from Frontier Airlines where he had a good reputation. I think he's got a bunch of pilots used to following the magenta line on autopilot and he needs to get them educated on what their laziness is doing.

Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 4, 2014 at 8:56 pm


In my experience they are not just flying the GPS approach. The GPS approach doesn't pass over my home yet I frequently have Surfair flights passing overhead.

They can do a number of things to reduce their noise footprint. The problem is that's not good enough for the self centered folks that want to pretend they live in the country.

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