Palo Alto's Crescent Park and Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhoods could find themselves under the flight path of a relatively new airline, if a proposal to the Federal Aviation Administration is cleared for takeoff.
Surf Air, an airline that offers passengers unlimited flights on six-passenger planes for a monthly fee, started flying its turbine-powered Pilatus PC-12 planes in and out of San Carlos Airport in June. But it has rankled some Atherton residents, who have found the airplane noise overhead annoying. About 75 people attended a Dec. 9 community meeting about Surf Air, with many voicing their concerns, according to a Dec. 10 article in the Almanac, the Weekly's sister paper.
Surf Air's current FAA-mandated flight path is aligned above Middlefield Road through Atherton, Menlo Park, Palo Alto and Mountain View and flies over Palo Alto's Walter Hays Elementary School.
But a proposed additional path would take planes 10 degrees to the east, passing directly over the Willows neighborhood in Menlo Park and the Crescent Park, Duveneck/St. Francis, Triple El and eastern Midtown neighborhoods in Palo Alto before crossing above U.S. Highway 101 just south of the Palo Alto Animal Services Center. From there, the flights would travel over the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve and above the Shoreline Golf Links in Mountain View.
It would not replace the current flight path but would provide another option, Cory Cozzens, Surf Air's vice president of business development, stated in an email to the Weekly last week.
Surf Air currently serves 371 members with about 350 more waiting for new routes to their communities, Cozzens told the Almanac. About half of its members live in the Bay Area, and 31 reside in San Mateo County. The airline has 16 daily flights from 8:20 a.m. to 9 p.m. connecting San Carlos to Burbank, Santa Barbara and Hawthorne, Calif., according to its website.
Cozzens said the company does not have any immediate plans to add flights to San Carlos airport.
"However, our long-term plans have included as many as 20 daily flights to San Carlos. We plan to provide service to airports throughout California over the coming years, including Tahoe, San Diego, Palm Springs and more," he said.
The membership-based airline charges a flat rate of $1,350 per month, plus a $500 one-time initiation fee.
The new flight path was formally requested by a working group of Atherton residents, Cozzens said. Surf Air and the San Carlos Airport provided minimal technical and feasibility guidance, he said.
Cozzens defended Surf Air planes, which he said are not exceptionally noisy.
"Surf Air flights comprise only a small number of the total daily flights into San Carlos airport and is similar or smaller/quieter than many other aircraft that have long been operated from San Carlos, including 20 daily operations with identical aircraft (Pilatus PC-12s). Unfortunately noise from other operations, including louder Coast Guard operations, are often attributed to Surf Air. All of that said, we want to be welcome in the community, so we have made many changes to our operations to minimize our noise impact, and we continue to work with all concerned parties to obtain this goal," he said.
Crescent Park Neighborhood Association President Norman Beamer sent an email to City of Palo Alto officials requesting immediate action so that the proposed route does not materialize.
"It's certainly appropriate for people to weigh in on this with the City Council," he said, but he did not know what legal mechanisms might be in place to address the trans-Palo Alto flights.
"I'm hoping people will get organized and look into it," he said.
Palo Alto officials are looking into the matter, said city spokeswoman Claudia Keith.
"The city is aware of the issue. We are working to ensure that the city is able to participate in any discussions on potential changes that could impact our community and continue to monitor the situation to ensure that the city's position is adequately represented," she said.
Karen White, president of the Duveneck/St. Francis Neighborhood Association, said she has not heard the planes, but neighborhood concerns regarding aircraft are not new, she said.
"Many years ago there was an uproar over the noise of the LifeFlight helicopters, but those concerns subsided," she said.
White would be more concerned about the planes flying at a safe altitude.
"We need to wait and see what happens. Flights during the day are not as problematic as flights at 2 a.m. waking people up," she said.