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County may put lid on 'noisy aircraft' at San Carlos Airport

Original post made on Mar 6, 2017

San Mateo County has drafted an ordinance that would put a curfew on the hours and numbers of "noisy aircraft" landing or taking off from its airport in San Carlos.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, March 6, 2017, 9:36 AM

Comments (34)

Posted by Robert Bowie
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Mar 6, 2017 at 12:27 pm

Gee, we need relief for folks in their backyards? OMG, are you kidding? Those leaf blowers and motorcycles are more of a nuisance than a few airplanes. Please, please, please, San Mateo County Board of Supervisors protect us from leaf blowers and motorcycles!!

Posted by neighbor
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 6, 2017 at 1:13 pm

Thank you to the County Commissioners, Airport Management, City Council members and the public at large for participating in meetings discussions surveys, boards etc. and coming up with what could be called a compromise
on an issue that is not going to go away.

Personally I would add we have less flights on weekend days as families and friends are outside enjoying the weather
this spring summer and fall.

But thanks for the effort so far.

Posted by Adam Ullman
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Mar 6, 2017 at 1:18 pm

@Robert Bowie: San Mateo County has protected us from leaf blowers and motorcycles. It's called San Mateo County Noise Ordinance 4.88.330 and it sets exterior noise standards based on decibels for certain amounts of time, during certain times of the day.

It seems like this new policy is applying a similar noise protection to the community in relation to noise from planes. Interestingly enough, the proposed decibel rating in this new policy is almost identical to the County's "not to exceed" noise threshold spelled out in 4.88.330.

Posted by Apple
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 6, 2017 at 2:39 pm

I don't think most people realize what a smart move the county made here. Touche!

Surf Air customers want to fly into or out of San Carlos before work and arrive back after. They choose Surf Air for the convenience.

If customers can't get a seat because that single flight during a 6-9 window is full, there goes the convenience factor. Surf Air's business model no longer works at San Carlos.

Moreover, all other operators at San Carlos will be affected minimally by this restriction either because their plane is exempted from the regulation or they do not fly often during the morning and evening windows.

And a curfew is allowable under FAA rules. SJC has one to limit night time flights.

With respect to David Fleck's concern, I say the daytime flights don't matter. If this regulation kills Surf Air's business model, they will abandon San Carlos completely or get quieter airplanes.

Either way, the noise issue is resolved permanently, at least for Surf Air flights.

Posted by Charlie
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Mar 6, 2017 at 3:00 pm

I don't mind the noise which really is nothing compared to everything else in our urban areas. All these airplanes fly over me all the time and I hardly notice them. Even birds, dogs, and good grief my neighbors are louder. Road noise and trains are much worse and incessant. I'd rather they fixed that first.

Why can't we see that noise study Porter talks about? Maybe the Almanac can get it and publish a story on it along with a link to it.

Posted by Surfair Customer
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2017 at 3:24 pm

It would be bad for customers if those popular flights were banned.

Why not ban traffic to San Francisco airport. It's MUCH worse and goes at all hours. How is it San Francisco airport gets a pass and north county is ignored while those close to San Carlos get a new ordinance?

If they're going to limit flights to San Carlos I'd like to see equal treatment for flights to San Francisco. It's not fair otherwise.

Posted by SIck Of It
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 6, 2017 at 3:55 pm

@Surfair Customer: Here's what isn't fair. It's a commercial airline service from a company that chose a noisy aircraft because it has better economics for their business while ignoring and rejecting the complaints of the the 1000's of households and people on the ground. And all for the convenience of just a few passengers each day. I'm sure if you flew into SFO or SJC you'd be just fine.

Posted by Surfair Customer
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2017 at 4:29 pm

SIck Of It - You suppose then that all those suffering from San Francisco Airport noise which is WAY LOUDER don't matter? We're far greater in number and far worse off than you ever will be even if Surf Air flew 747's.

If they're going to restrict San Carlos then they HAVE to fix San Francisco as well. Don't people in Daly City, South San Francisco, Burlingame matter? WE get to put up with BIG airplanes at all times of day while you get to caterwaul about some tiny little propeller things?

It's pretty selfish of you if you think YOU deserve relief and nobody else does. Then again you're a NIMBY aren't you?

Posted by Ben Fuller
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2017 at 4:41 pm

Great article and an empowered step by San Mateo County leaders to deal with the "free-for-all" above San Carlos! There are some capable people in our government, so hats off to our elected officials, if and when this curfew goes into effect. As many will tell you, this needs to be just the beginning of the changes, starting with the control tower operators Serco who were brought in from out-of-state to run our tower instead of making San Carlos an FAA tower that is accountable to our community (As Jackie Speier's office is asking for). We have been told that these "contractors" have a financial incentive in their contract to send more planes through the airport which runs counter to our communities' quality of life. Jackie Speier's office recently penned a letter to the FAA detailing the cavalier and maverick attitude of the Serco Tower Manager running the San Carlos flight towers who routinely schedules takeoffs that flaut noise abatement protocols in place for 50 years. The FAA even recently held a meeting with Serco about San Carlos airport that did not include any of our elected officials so contentious is this fight. Even the honorable pilots that use our airport responsibly have written about the extreme violations by Serco's flight tower manager. We're all paying a price for the out-of-control free-for-all above San Carlos.

And yes, in particular, Surf Air's commercial flights out of a general aviation airport have been the crown jewel of destruction of our quality of life in San Carlos. The curfew is a MUST, but much more still needs to be done around helicopters and additional new traffic that San Carlos Airport is routing over San Carlos after 50 years of peaceful coexistence with an airport that once served ALL of our community. Commercial airlines should be banned from operating out of general aviation airports and not be allowed to use FAA Rule 135 to circumvent restrictions on commercial aircraft.

Furthermore, we are asking for the inclusion of helicopters into this discussion as soon as possible. Helicopters are mostly unregulated at this point and allowed to fly virtually wherever they want creating extreme noise and vibration events.

Furthermore, from what we are now learning it appears that San Carlos Airport may be the ones responsible for unleashing a torrent of air traffic over San Carlos neighborhoods that never existed before. Who is making these decisions to fly planes over new routes? West/East flights from Half Moon Bay that once flew over industrial areas but now go right over our homes. Never-ending low flying helicopters interrupt us many times a day instead of flying over 101. And even North/South planes have been moved over the neighborhoods so that flights to Palo Alto and San Jose are now going right over head. Who is doing this? The airport? Serco? Hard to get an answer to the ever-pressing question "What Changed" but we'll keep demanding answers until more layers of the onion are peeled.

Posted by bladeslappers
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2017 at 5:06 pm

You're never going to be able to get rid of helicopters. They can fly anywhere they want and don't need an airport. If you ban them from San Carlos they're just going to end up in your back yard and there will be nothing you can do. I wouldn't mess with the helicopter people. There had to be a reason the board left them out of the curfew and I'll bet it's because they're scared to include them. You might be able to push around the little propeller guys but the big money (and political juice) rides in helicopters.

Posted by Gwen
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Mar 6, 2017 at 6:03 pm

Thanks for the support. For those who think SFO jets are louder than Surf Air, please come sit in our homes from 6 am to 10 pm...many of us are directly under the roar of the Surf Air landing path, it is much louder than a jet. When we began this campaign to reclaim our bucolic neighborhoods, the first Surf Air CEO sat in my garden and misidentified his Surf Air flight as a SFO bound Jet.. and the take offs, although higher fly over all day 7 days a week.
We were not opposed to the airport, I've lived in my home for 20 years and NEVER had a reason to call the airport..until Surf Air.

Posted by Apple
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 6, 2017 at 6:06 pm

@Surf Air Customer

The real fault lies with Surf Air. They have known for years about the noise complaints. They have seen more and more people complain as flight activity increased. In all this time, they have not fixed the problem. They thought they were untouchable because the FAA makes it hard to restrict flight activities until the county discovered they could set a curfew.

The curfew is onerous for Surf Air, but the airline has not been acting in good faith. Like they say, do onto others...

At this point, Surf Air must solve the noise problem or abandon San Carlos. They can still fly out of SFO, Half Moon Bay, or Palo Alto as alternatives. They can get different planes with lower noise profiles. Many solutions abound. It's not death to their business.

Posted by NFO now noisy
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Mar 6, 2017 at 7:44 pm

Every time I hear a noisy jet, I look at the flight trader app, and guess what? It's almost always a Surfair jet. The SFO planes fly higher and less frequently over the mid peninsula. Surfair is exploiting the lack of scrutiny and security procedures at small municipal airports. They have steadily increased the number of flights and the noise pollution they cause has a real effect on people and animals living under their flight paths. I understand we need air traffic but I don't understand how a company can get away with causing a nuisance for so many at the expense of so few--it is outrageous.

Posted by Jenson
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 6, 2017 at 9:55 pm

This is a promising step in the annoying surf air traffic problem that has gone on for way to long. Let's hope the curfew can be put in place permanently. Surf air and it's passengers will hopefully go away after they are told to restrict their flights. Surf air chose to thumb their nose at the concerns of the community so now the passengers and airline can move somewhere else where a similar fate awaits until they realize they should try to work with the community rather then say " we have money so we can do what we please". Good job San Mateo county

Posted by Go away
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 6, 2017 at 10:55 pm

I remember at one of the first community meetings. The then CEO of Surf Air said they would cap their flights at 13 a day. We are now up to 22 and SA will fly as many as demand allows, why not it's a for profit business.

United just announced a flight from SFO to Santa Rosa, Maybe they will fly into San Carlos next. SA should adjust to SJO and SFO where the facilities are set up for commercial airlines.

The curfew can't come soon enough. One of these days we will get our good weather again, "Weather is best by Government test", We've been trapped in our homes this winter but am not looking forward to 22 flights all times of the day and night during nice weather.

Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 7, 2017 at 9:18 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Good luck with this. Customers will just adjust their schedules so they fly between 6 am and 9 pm. Not only will that happen, Surfair will just shift the 11 flights that occur between 9 pm and 6 am to the 6 am to 9pm time frame. The net effect being MORE Surfair flights between 6 am and 9 pm. Great job board! Talk about cutting off you nose to spite your face. Bottom line; Surfair isn't going anywhere no matter how bad you people wish it would.

Posted by Thankful Citizen
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 7, 2017 at 10:41 am

Happy to have some progress here - this is quite civilized. I can see folks with their standard false arguments popping up out of the woodwork, so that's good news and means they are shakin' in their boots. I only wish that the curfew was extended to 7AM. SurfAir can take their ball and play elsewhere - our quality of life has suffered far too much for the past 4 years.

Posted by Like It Quiet
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Mar 7, 2017 at 2:19 pm

I've been following this situation with a lot of interest over the last year or so, because the CEO of SurfAir obviously had no reason to give a heads-up to his real intentions with his airline: to maximize the number of flights, period. The man wants to make a ton of money. That's all. He's not in it to better the world, he's in it to better his own wallet. Now that he has actually gone forward with his plan----and fully intends to add even more flights----suddenly our public officials are finally sitting up to take notice.

I do feel for you, Athertonians, and others effected by SurfAir. I would like to add one thing: I completely agree that SFO should be subjected to a curfew as well. SFO has done nothing but expand, and has more expansion in the works, in spite of the objections of the entire Peninsula. Then, to top it off, they went ahead and moved the flight paths. Lastly, they added super-jumbo jets that have no business taking off and landing on those incredibly short runways. In fact, they cause so much air turbulance, other commercial jets cannot fly within a normal distance from them. Every day, they make a sharp turn directly over Portola Valley, then cruise in lower and lower over Menlo Park and Palo Alto. Not safe.

San Jose International Airport has a curfew. Why doesn't SFO? Why are we, members of the communities on the Peninsula, continually subjected to overflights for an airport that financially benefits only San Francisco (SFO) or a single man (SurfAir)?

Don't tell me it's a factor of the increase in business in this area. Facebook and Google and Amazon and Oracle and the like have all been here for quite some time. So have all of the VC firms. Half the flights I've been on have been nearly empty. I really don't think we need the frequency of flights that SFO apparently believes we do----for their own benefit, of course.

Posted by Where's Peter?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 7, 2017 at 2:43 pm

@Menlo Voter, did you read the ordinance? You may want to do that before you post inaccurate information. Surf is screwed at KSQL. :)

Posted by Nancy Crampton
a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2017 at 3:14 pm

The Curfew time needs to be extended to at least 7am. It is all the flights that land between 6 and 7 am that are so distracting and wake people up too early. The curfew says only one plane will be allowed to land or take off between 6 and 7 am, but that one plane is all it takes to wake everyone up. Please extend the curfew to 7 am. That is early enough to still get the passengers to their final destinations at a reasonable time. Why should we on the peninsula bear the brunt of those loud planes waking everyone up so that others can live far away and work here.

Posted by Alt. Facts
a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 7, 2017 at 3:31 pm

No way this curfew will last. Too many other small business will suffer from this curfew and have it lifted.
Furthermore, all those of you complaining about SFO, please do tell me where you fly out of when you go anywhere in the world? Are you never on those "super jumbo jets"? How about anyone who whines about noise from SFO isn't allowed to fly out of there? (Which by the way, those 10k+ foot runways are plenty long enough for A380's or 747's, obviously.) The FAA and pilots aren't just a bunch of cowboys that decide to descend lower and lower over neighborhoods and land where they please, hoping they'll make it. There are laws regarding part 135 scheduled charters (Surf Air) and part 121 airlines (anything most of us fly on).

We are all entitled to our opinions, but please educate yourselves before you speak.

Posted by Funny Rich People
a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2017 at 3:47 pm

I think this is just gut-wrenching hilarious! "We" are the tech capital of the world, we have self-driving cars, self driving buses, home to an ever expanding landscape of millionaires and billionaires designing ever expanding intrusions into others' daily lives and putting at risk millions of jobs with AI and robots. "We" live in a highly congested area sandwiched in between oceans, forests, and a bay that few can afford. How dare "we", those who have a right to exist in peace and freedom, to be inconvenienced with the noise of the little people - those who have to shuttle around on some propeller plane between Silicon Valley and Silicon Beach. Solution? Penalize the San Carlos Airport except for the noisiest of aircraft - helicopters and jets.

Posted by man up
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 7, 2017 at 4:37 pm

All the Surf Air passengers should man up and get your own plane. Cmon, This isn't Little Rock Arkansas

You should be embarrassed......

Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 7, 2017 at 6:19 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

where's Peter?:

No, only read the article. didn't see a link to the proposed legislation. I would appreciate it if you could provide one. My comments were based on what was reported. IF that was accurate, I stand by my statements. If not, well....

Posted by Lorenz Menendez - Pilot @ SQL
a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2017 at 6:43 pm

Have soundproofing grants ever been considered as a possible solution for aircraft noise?

Many airports near or within residential areas have used this policy to reduce the impact of aircraft noise on surrounding communities, all while allowing aircraft traffic to continue flowing. Such airports include Chicago - Midway (MDW), Minneapolis St. Paul (MSP), Paris Charles-de-Gaulle (CDG), and even San Francisco Intl (SFO).

Obviously, the only obstacle to this solution would be the distribution of cost, however, with so many actors in play, it would be easy to accumulate funding for the project. First and foremost, the FAA has grants in place that airports can use to compensate nearby residents for soundproofing. Secondly, it is only logical that SurfAir foot part of the bill for the project, as it benefits from the airport's unrivaled proximity to San Francisco, from its small size (allowing for easy passenger transit -- i.e. no TSA screening, no long waits), and from its unique monopoly on scheduled passenger flights to and from San Carlos. Thirdly, owners of "noisy" aircraft (as defined by San Mateo County) should be expected to contribute as well to such a fund, either through a landing-fee or other tax because of their louder aircraft.

Objectively, one can say that this solution offers the best compromise between the neighboring residential communities, airport business, and pilots. It allows for the economic viability of the airport, all while mitigating the health and financial costs of living next to an airport.

Posted by Barbara Wood
Almanac staff writer
on Mar 7, 2017 at 7:17 pm

Barbara Wood is a registered user.

I forgot to provide a link to the draft proposal, so I've added it to the story. It is also below. Mike Callagy, the assistant county manager has confirmed this is the current draft proposal from the county.

Web Link

Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 7, 2017 at 7:28 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Having now read the actual draft ordinance. I suspect they will have a tough road to hoe selling the "shoulder periods" to the FAA. SJO doesn't have them even though they have a noise ordinance. There's likely a reason. The FAA is going to look at over all impacts on airport operations. I don't think they will approve of the shoulder periods. However, if they do, then yes, Surfair is screwed. BUT, that is a very big IF. We shall see.

Posted by Homeowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Mar 7, 2017 at 8:08 pm

Web Link

"Why isn’t there a curfew for flight operations at SFO?

In 1990, Congress passed the Airport Noise and Capacity Act. This law was a compromise between the airlines and the airports: airlines were required to phase out the use of the noisiest aircraft (known as Stage 2 aircraft) and airport operators were prohibited from creating curfews or other operating restrictions. Airports with existing curfews were allowed to keep the curfew in place under a “grandfather” clause. Since SFO did not have an operations curfew in place at the time the law was enacted it is now prohibited from establishing one."

I'm guessing SJC's curfew was likely was grandfathered in.

Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 7, 2017 at 9:12 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"I'm guessing SJC's curfew was likely was grandfathered in. "

Yes, SJC's curfew was in affect in the 80's if not before.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks

on Mar 8, 2017 at 7:22 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

Posted by Tired of Cronyism
a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2017 at 8:48 am

Link to relevant article: Web Link

And here it is in full:

East Hampton Appeals To U.S. Supreme Court For Airport Control
Mar 7, 2017 3:13 PM
By Michael Wright
East Hampton Town officials announced on Tuesday that they have filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court asking that the powers it believes the town holds to impose curfews at the East Hampton Airport be reinstated.

The 130-page petition outlines the question of whether federal laws seeking to prevent private airport owners from interrupting interstate transportation bind the town, or the owners of other small airports, from imposing any limitations on aircraft use of its runways in the face of noise affecting surrounding residents.

The petition was filed on behalf of the town by Kathleen Sullivan, a former Stanford Law School dean who has argued a number of cases before the nation’s highest court, and David M. Cooper, an attorney from the same Los Angeles-based firm, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan. Town officials said they’ve been told that the high court should notify the attorneys in three to four months about whether it will hear the case.

In 2015, the town’s curfews at the airport were blocked by the U.S. Court of Appeals after lawsuits challenging the flight restrictions were filed by a group of aviation industry companies.

A federal judge allowed the curfews to remain in place through two summers, but the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last fall that local municipalities do not have the power to impose limitations on the use of their airports that supersede FAA rules, even if they haven’t accepted federal funding.

A statement from the town this week called the decision “an unprecedented expansion of federal regulatory authority.”

“For the last three years, this Town Board has been fighting to regain local control of our airport,” Supervisor Larry Cantwell said in a statement. “We followed the FAA’s advice and elected to forgo federal funding so that we could protect our residents. We engaged in a lengthy public process to identify meaningful but reasonable restrictions, and the District Court agreed that we met that test.

“But, with the stroke of a pen,” the supervisor continued, “the appeals court decision has federalized our airport and stripped us—and the thousands of similarly situated airports—of the ability to exert local control. We cannot let that decision stand.”

Posted by Linda
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Mar 8, 2017 at 9:05 pm

Sounds hopeful. SA planes are very noxious / disturbing. SFO planes are not noticed much here. People ARE HOME DURING THE DAY - working, living, with kids and for sure on weekends. Most of the year with windows open and out doors walking, gardening, just living...

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 8, 2017 at 9:36 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

People should not get their hopes up until the FAA approves the County's noise limitation ordinance.

See above re another similar situation:

"A federal judge allowed the curfews to remain in place through two summers, but the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last fall that local municipalities do not have the power to impose limitations on the use of their airports that supersede FAA rules, even if they haven’t accepted federal funding."

FAA approval of the San Mateo County noise limitations is unlikely.

Posted by pilot
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 18, 2017 at 5:33 pm

Don't miss the County's meeting tonight at the county center regarding San Carlos Airport and

Surf Air,

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