News

Residents have growing concerns over small commuter planes

 

Fledgling airline Surf Air's marketing slogan is "Disruptive Innovation -- A Revolutionary Approach to Air Travel." Some residents in Menlo Park, Redwood City and Atherton say it sums up their experience with the commuter airline's turbo-propeller planes.

Surf Air started flying out of San Carlos Airport in June 2013. The start-up airline offers members unlimited flights for a monthly fee between regional airports, including Burbank, Hawthorne, Santa Barbara, Las Vegas and Truckee. It currently has as many as 24 flights to and from San Carlos, with the earliest departing at 7:05 a.m. on weekdays and the last arriving at 8:55 p.m. On weekends, the first flight leaves at 8 a.m. on Saturday and the last lands at 10 p.m. on Sunday, according to the company's website. The airline plans to add Oakland and Carlsbad to its service in November and December.

But its concierge service has upset Midpeninsula residents, who say its Pilatus aircraft is exceedingly noisy. CalmTheSkies, a group based in Atherton, has been trying to get the company to change its flight paths or to have the planes fly higher. A Sept. 30 meeting at Holbrook-Palmer Park brought together people from Palo Alto to Redwood City to voice their concerns to Surf Air executives.

"A critical takeaway is that this isn't an Atherton problem. It is a problem that affects many communities," Atherton resident David Fleck, an organizer, said.

Residents said the plane's sound frequency has been like nothing they have experienced before.

"I call it the blue-bellied beast," said Sheri Shenk, who said the planes shake her home. Her visiting grandchildren ran for cover during a recent visit.

"I gauge it by the height of my redwood tree. It's often lower than 1,500 feet," she said.

Surf Air CEO Jeff Potter, a former Frontier Airlines CEO who took over in February, said the airline wants to work with the community. Surf is testing a new, quintuple-bladed propeller that might be quieter than the four-bladed type in current use, he said. The airline would like to fly out of Moffett Field, which could eliminate some of the noisy traffic currently burdening south San Mateo County cities, but so far the company hasn't gotten approval, he said.

Pilots at the Sept. 30 meeting said that Surf Air pilots need training on best practices to descend more quietly in the Pilatus aircraft.

CalmTheSkies is also working to try to get the Federal Aviation Administration to increase the altitudes on flight paths or spread the flight approaches over U.S. Highway 101.

Some residents say they have already done enough talking, and they are considering legal options.

"That's very indicative about how upset people are becoming in our community," Fleck said.

San Mateo County has continued to accept federal money from the FAA. Some residents say it is time to stop.

"In doing so, they're giving away the ability of the county to have leverage to manage ground operations better. We can no longer demand to manage curfews or the number of flights," Fleck said.

The residents also want better noise monitoring. The studies are dated to before the class of aircraft such as Pilatus existed, he said.

Noise studies are also generally done nearest to airports.

"They don't extend back to the community," he said.

Residents said they are closely evaluating candidates running in this November's election for their responsiveness on the issue.

"It's the county's responsibility. They own it -- it's their airport. ... We're really questioning where our seats of government are on these issues. They are missing in action, and we need them front and center," Fleck said.

Related content:

Residents, city officials gear up to fight increased airplane noise

Government officials attempt to influence aircraft regulations

Comments

3 people like this
Posted by Concerned Retiree
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 24, 2014 at 11:04 am

Midtown Residents are not usually bothered by Surf Air or other San Carlos Airport bound or based planes. We are bothered and worried by early morning and late night low flying flights over our neighborhood which should be taking routes over the bay or over Oregon Expressway.

We also are often plagued by SFO flights which can back up or take a very long approach to the airport around midnight or around 7 AM, sometimes 10 AM, in the morning.

Like a swarm of bees, both of these flight patterns seem to attract multiple planes performing these patterns at set times. Other times, the skies are clear and blessedly, quiet.

What causes these patterns?


5 people like this
Posted by IndieRhythm
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 24, 2014 at 11:07 am

As a Palo Alto resident now living with aircraft noise disruption daily and nightly, I’m incredibly empathetic to what the communities are experiencing that are in or near the SurfAir flight paths. I have been to a couple of meetings to hear the concerns of residents and it’s heartbreaking to see how many of their lives have changed due to this one particular airline. For many it’s like the planes are literally flying through their backyards (carrying only 6 passengers). That is a lot of disruption for an entire community to serve just a few. After hearing many residents of the community voice their concerns and hear pilots speak to this issue, it seems that they are in a real bind because the airport takes federal grants and has lost control to the FAA (so incredibly disappointing that Palo Alto has just done this as well)… However, even with that, it also seems that both SurfAir and the San Carlos airport could do so much more to support their communities.

The airport could put in much stricter noise regulations (and monitoring) so that any new airlines or aircraft that start using the airport are flying within noise levels acceptable healthy and safety-wise to the community. It could also not allow SurfAir to expand its operations with more noisy planes and flights (which it is planning to do) until the airline makes some operational changes or change some serious fines.

It seems as if SurfAir could make some significant changes if it was willing (it also seems to many residents that they are just paying lip service about being socially responsible, but not actually doing anything and this community has been expressing it’s concerns since they started operating!). Experienced pilots say this propeller change is fine but will probably not make much of a difference. Other pilots flying the Pilatus for 20+ years out of the San Carlos airport say they‘ve never had noise complaints and they could help train these pilots to operate their planes in ways that allow them to fly much quieter. Some have also suggested that they could fly more spread out on different flight paths on good weather days (which is 90% of the time) when not required to stay on a particular course. I hope some of those experts comment here to help educate all of us on what could be done. It’s then up to us to express our thoughts and concerns to the airport, SurfAir, and to support these local community working groups trying to create change to maintain our quality of life. I’m a supporter of the airports and their businesses – but I believe we can co-exist harmoniously and right now that is no longer happening.


Like this comment
Posted by Jetman
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2014 at 11:37 am

On the one-day flight-track maps linked below, the Surfair arrivals are shown in a gray-olive color, and SFO arrivals are shown in red.

One-day flight-track maps for Palo Alto area: Web Link





4 people like this
Posted by Pegasus
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2014 at 11:51 am

@ Concerned Retiree

You are right that airplanes above Midtown are numerous and loud, very disruptive.

However, they already fly above Oregon Expressway and you hear them clearly from most of Midtown when they are above Oregon Expressway. So, asking to route planes over Oregon won't solve the problem. They should fly higher, and yes, be over the bay.

You are invited to join us in addressing aircraft noise in Palo Alto. There are several Midtown residents in our group already.

Web Link


4 people like this
Posted by seriously?
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 24, 2014 at 12:06 pm

A route over Oregon Expressway is going to help, how?


1 person likes this
Posted by Johns
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 24, 2014 at 2:49 pm

All those aircraft tracks on the link. All I can say is, wow.


2 people like this
Posted by Pegasus
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2014 at 6:35 pm

"Surf Air CEO Jeff Potter, a former Frontier Airlines CEO who took over in February, said the airline wants to work with the community.The airline would like to fly out of Moffett Field, which could eliminate some of the noisy traffic currently burdening south San Mateo County cities, but so far the company hasn't gotten approval, he said."

This is WORRISOME news for PALO ALTO residents. Note how the Surf Air CEO acknowledges that moving Surf Air to Moffett Field would relieve south San Mateo County cities from noise, but not Santa Clara County or Palo Alto. There is a good reason for this.

If Surf Air moves to Moffett Field, Palo Alto would switch from having landing Surf Air planes overhead, to having them taking off over our town. After leaving Moffett, they would climb above Palo Alto, while staying low to dodge SFO traffic. It would be a much worse situation for Palo Alto than we currently have.

This is called Atherton dumping its problem on other communities, all the while they do not want Palo Alto to displace airplane noise away from Palo Alto as can be witnessed from some of the comments Atherton residents have made on this forum in the past!!

Palo Alto needs to be vigilant and weigh in so that Surf Air does not move operations to Moffett Field.


Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 25, 2014 at 7:03 pm

The Moffett Field runways run east and west. Planes come in over the Sunnyvale Golf Course - that is why it is there - and take off over the bay.
I do not see why they would want Moffett as entry onto the airfield goes through a security gate. Their ability to have flights all day and night would not be possible. It is not a commercial air field. It is a designated government airfield - it is the home of NASA. Google is leasing Hanger 1but their planes are in a new facility at San Jose Airport.

Sunnyvale and Mountain View in the past have disallowed small planes and commercial planes - Fed-Ex to land at that field.

That is just a demonstration of how arrogant these people are - they expect things handed to them on a silver platter. They do not have to go down Middlefield from Mountain View to San Carlos - they choose to. If you look at the San Jose Mineta Flight Tracker small planes are going every which way out there, as do the Palo Alto planes.

The San Jose planes depart towards Moffett and turn over the bay so that is a conflict. They would be in San Jose's flight path. Sounds like he is just TALKING to develop good faith - but out of his hands.


Like this comment
Posted by Pegasus
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2014 at 7:20 pm

@ Resident 1

I hear you. However, after taking off over the Bay, the planes going down south (to LA etc., which is a large portion of Surf Air traffic) will have to veer west and loop down back south. This will happen over Palo Alto, at low altitude to avoid SFO flights.

This loop is that the P3s did, back in the day when there were P3s.

I wish I could be as optimistic as you are about Surf Air at Moffett Field never happening. In any case, I hope Palo Alto will be vigilant on this.


Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 26, 2014 at 11:47 am

Any paper I pick up has sophisticated jet charter services advertised with REAL JETS. SFO and San Jose Airports have a private charter jet area - but those planes have to compete with small planes owned by Delta and United which serve the same purpose but are scheduled.
Surf Air needs to get themselves to the private section of San Jose Airport which has the sophisticated equipment and air control to assist in safe flights. Either that costs too much money - or they are looking for a location that will provide less scrutiny of their business.
Any company that is hurting for cash to maintain their expensive planes will be pushing the window as to conduction of business.
New show on TV is Airplane Repo - you don't pay the bills then the panes get whisked off and you get to be on TV chasing your plane down the flight path.


4 people like this
Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 26, 2014 at 4:59 pm

Chris Zaharias is a registered user.

I hear the same planes as you do, and have ears that work. I, for one, welcome more regional flight options and wish people would get over it and on with their lives.


Like this comment
Posted by Airbus
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2014 at 5:25 pm

If you would be talking about ground transportation, a general statement about welcoming more regional car options would probably not go unnoticed. Usually people want less cars.

Same with airplanes, just saying more airplane options says nothing unless there is a good proposition. Surf Air is not proving to be a good proposition so far. All those people could find one big airplane to commute on, and arrange their schedules accordingly instead of being a nuisance to the the long strip of communities they annoy.


6 people like this
Posted by OhComeOnPeople!
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 27, 2014 at 6:59 am

The airport has been in this location since 1950. And yet people continue to buy and build their homes near it expecting no aircraft to fly overhead and make noise. Get a grip on reality folks.

You don't like the noise, don't move near an airport. It's actually as simple as that.

Unless you bought or built prior to the airports existance, you've got nothing to complain about and no one to blame but yourself for moving into a home near an airport.

Wise up people and take some responsibility for your lack of thought that went into your decision to move near an airport.


1 person likes this
Posted by Airbus
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 27, 2014 at 8:11 am

The entire Peninsula is near an airport. Operations in 1950 and operations in 2014 are meant to evolve, but in the case of noise abatement and pollution, it has all been very poorly handled for the people on the ground.

It is important to complain. That's what you do with any noise, and pollutants, you complain.

Noise abatement can be handled better and more equitably. The aviation industry touts the billions that are at stake with the growth in operations, and how much more important those billions are than the people on the ground who are impacted.

Billions on the one hand, and sound proofing a few houses under the landing path on the other, makes no sense. But then that's probably why there is the campaign "you live near an airport, get over it."


6 people like this
Posted by OhComeOnPeople!
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 27, 2014 at 8:39 am

Important to complain? "I'm not reponsible for my own decisions, so therefore it's your fault and you must change"!

This is a major problem in todays society. People not taking responsibilty for there own actions/decisions and expecting others to be responsible for them.

Man up and have accountability for your own actions in moving near an aiport(entire Peninsula or not) that has been there for 64 YEARS.








1 person likes this
Posted by Airbus
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 27, 2014 at 8:57 am

Living near airports does in fact require responsibility on behalf of citizens.

It is the responsible thing to do to hold airports accountable for how their operations impact their neighbors.


3 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 27, 2014 at 9:42 am

"earliest departing at 7:05 a.m. on weekdays and the last arriving at 8:55 p.m"

Not too bad - compared to freight train horns at 2AM, 6 days a week.


3 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 27, 2014 at 7:28 pm

Oh Common People - you live Palo Alto Hills - you paid more for your house but I would not like to commute from the hills every day - I used to walk to work at Ford Aerospace / Loral. Those employees are walking the area every day at lunch time. I seem to remember a lot of hill people were complaining about the 280 - Page Mill intersection. People make trade-offs - young families usually cannot start in the hills. And a lot of people prefer to be down within easy reach of restaurants and markets.
People are here for jobs and/or school - that is the trade-off.


Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 30, 2014 at 10:01 am

Moffett Field is out of the question for Surf Air. It is not a commercial or personal airport. Surf Air sells itself as a personal airplane.
Moffett is a Navy / NASA / Government contractor airfield. Period.
Please do not bring it up again as it is a distraction - and Mr. Surf Air should realize that his best bet is at San Jose on the far side of the field where the personal jets are. However - too expensive for him They need to step up to the plate to a real commercial / personal airport.


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 30, 2014 at 10:43 am

@res1 -- from where I sit that's the NEAR side of the field at San Jose.


Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 30, 2014 at 10:59 am

If I am in the main airport looking across the tarmac to where the old long term parking used to be that is where the personal jets are - and hangers.


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 30, 2014 at 11:06 am

Sorry, my reference point is Palo Alto, from which the main terminal is the far side.


2 people like this
Posted by Linda
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 30, 2014 at 7:20 pm

I have been told by three local long time San Carlos Pilots (at group level) that the low elevation (1200 feet - sometimes less) that Surf Air flies means if there were mechanical trouble above us they would most likely need to land on a school playing field.

There are many schools and day care homes under this flight path. The parents may not be aware of this issue so far.


Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 30, 2014 at 7:31 pm

Linda - I think everyone is aware and concerned. They fly down Middlefield from Mountain View north through Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Atherton ,RWC. We all want them to fly down the bay side of 101 over the water. Why is that so hard to accomplish? They know they are irritating every one - you think they would try to accommodate every one's concerns. They are a security menace.


2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 31, 2014 at 12:44 am

@res1 -- "everyone"??? I've watched these Surf Air flights go over for months. Downtown. Cal Avenue. Middlefield. I have never seen another person even look upward at a Pilatus, nevermind being irritated. My sample size is many thousands of people.


Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 31, 2014 at 11:09 am

We have streams over time on Surf Air since their origination. They go over my house - they make the transition from the bay to Middlefield. Lots of data is on this system concerning Surf Air - also the Almanac / Menlo Park, Atherton. I went to the meeting in Atherton on this topic back when.
Note in SJM today - "ask Beth" column - husband addicted to Marijuana so does not want to fly on regular airlines - illegal to carry drugs. My interpretation of Surf Air is that people fly with their drugs / firearms because they do not go through a formal security check. My opinion is a bunch of charters are hedging their bets that marijuana will be legalized in CA. That has been my opinion from the start on their "disruptive" business and their choice of name. Most pot is carried by boats coming in to shore - surf - SF Chronicle.


Like this comment
Posted by Airplane Noise Community Meeting
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 1, 2014 at 8:13 am


Wednesday, November 5th, 7pm
Cubberley Community Center
Room A-3

Residents of Palo Alto and neighboring communities are invited to join this gathering. Come meet other concerned residents, share specific concerns about the increasing noise from aircraft, get an update on the current situation, and learn how our working group (Web Link) is trying to find solutions. Please let us know if you plan on joining us. If the group grows larger than expected, we’ll be able to contact you if we move to a larger space. RSVP to info@skypossepaloalto.org. Thank you.

for more details Web Link


5 people like this
Posted by A Pilot
a resident of another community
on Nov 4, 2014 at 6:22 pm

Here's a funny situation: Surf Air sells a premium product to allow wealthy people to fly from smaller airports to avoid major commercial airport congestion and security hassles. The people that can afford and need to use the Surf Air product are probably directly responsible for hundred if not thousands of jobs for the local economy.

In addition to this, airplanes have only evolved to be quieter and quieter as time goes on. A Surf Air Pilatus makes significantly less noise than some of the smaller piston-powered airplanes that use that airport at a much higher frequency. I'd put any of the complainers here up to the Pepsi Challenge of airplane noise and bet that 90% of you fail to identify which airplane is which.

Now another facet to this deal is that pilots and especially commercial operators are subject to ever tightening noise restrictions. I'm based in SFO, and I promise you that air traffic control has us staying high as long as possible and flying over the water as we get closer to the ground. Everything short of safety compromises is done to keep people like you from whining about an essential service to the local economy and one that nearly evey person here will use multpile times in their life.

The fact that Surf Air is willing to have a dialogue with the community is pretty diplomatic. Be careful what you wish for. Caltrain horns make more noise than airplanes nowadays.


1 person likes this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 4, 2014 at 6:53 pm

@Pilot > "... 90% of you fail to identify which airplane is which."

When this story appeared in print (Oct 24), the cover photo misidentified a Piper as a Pilatus.


Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 4, 2014 at 11:31 pm

Pilot - the typical passenger you are describing has a company jet which is a real jet - you see them advertised in WSJ, NYT, etc. Most companies highly insure valuable personnel and insist that they fly on larger, safer planes. If something went wrong then the insurance company would balk at payment - unnecessary risk. The plane used is not a premium product.

If the person is flying on company business then he will be on a real jet. Most people who are flying a lot prefer a larger plane that provides more services - like maintenance at major hubs and a highly trained crew in the event that something goes wrong.
Sorry - Surf Air is small and weak - the flight from Burbank to San Carlos is probably not that enjoyable as the central valley has turbulence which would bounce that plane around. Not my idea of a quality trip. Like a sardine can flying through a windy weather pattern.

In all of the discussion we have had on Surf air there is yet to be anyone who actually flew on one and came back to say how wonderful it was.


2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 5, 2014 at 2:16 am

Nor has there been anyone to say a Surf Air flight was miserable. Since there is a waiting list for new sign-ups, I presume the experience is preferred over the alternatives.


Like this comment
Posted by Meeting tonight at Cubberley 7 pm
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 5, 2014 at 7:58 am

Airplane Noise Community Meeting

Residents of Palo Alto and neighboring communities are invited to join this gathering. Come meet other concerned residents, share specific concerns about the increasing noise from aircraft, get an update on the current situation, and learn how our working group (Web Link) is trying to find solutions.

for more details Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by A Pilot
a resident of another community
on Nov 5, 2014 at 10:51 am

Resident 1: your comment betrays your impressive ignorance on the subject of aviation. Meaningful dialogue with you would be nearly impossible. I will offer you a tip though: if you attempt further debate on this issue, avoid the topic of aviation weather as you will only succeed in embarrassing yourself and discrediting your position.


1 person likes this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 5, 2014 at 11:40 am

Pilot - you give yourself away. Same comments. You make it sound like no one ever flew from Burbank to San Jose. Or try the inter-island commuters which are a actual jet but have to deal with turbulence.
The bottom line is that flying out of SFO is that you have great support services for both enjoyment and if something goes wrong. You also have highly trained crews. And if flying on a corporate paid trip you are required to provide expense receipts for the trip which are subject to audit. And if you are an executive then your secretary is making the reservations on a highly regulated travel department which has already negotiated with the commercial airlines.


1 person likes this
Posted by HowAeronic
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 28, 2014 at 4:32 pm

I just heard they expanded and have more funding. You have got to be kidding me! How is this possible!


1 person likes this
Posted by Jetman
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2014 at 9:14 am

HowAeronic,

Not surprised they got more funding, SurfAir founder Dave Everly seems to live under a lucky-star:

WSJ Article on Surf Air founders Wade and Dave Eyerly:

"Prior to leading the start-up, he (Wade) served, among other things, as an economist to the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff covering Europe and NATO, and as a press advance to the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2004... His brother Dave previously trained as a pilot at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, then went on to work for the Transportation Security Administration..." Web Link

Article on Wade Eyerly from The NYT:

"At 16, he walked into the registrar's office at the University of Central Missouri, not knowing he was supposed to have applied for admission. He walked out with a schedule of classes. After arriving in Washington, jobless, he landed a position in Vice President Dick Cheney's press office, followed by stints in Iraq as a government operative and in Washington as a National Security Agency consultant." Web Link

Hmmm...


Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 30, 2014 at 10:41 am

Check out the home page for Oakland Airport - Surf Air starts flying out of that location December 5.
Side Note - last night flew form Portland Oregon to SFO on Alaska Airlines.
Alaska Airlines is based in the International Terminal so does not have many gates. The flight was delayed two hours due to SFO weather - so they say - but suspect that they had limited gates. We had to sit on the SFO tarmac while Jet Blue ejected a "disruptive" passenger. There was a lot of turbulence as we came into the bay area.

"Disruptive" a buzz word that gets thrown around. It shows you are cool.


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 30, 2014 at 11:03 am

Firm order for 15 new airplanes, and options for 50 more.
Yup, living under a lucky star.
But as we all know, the harder we work, the luckier we get.


1 person likes this
Posted by SurfAirGuy
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 12, 2015 at 4:46 pm

While I'm relaxing in my currently valued $12-million dollar atherton home that I bought in 1965, listening to that bizarre old-timey radio station that is unique to this area, I am frustrated by the sounds of airplane services ostensibly created around the same growth and influx of well-heeled executive that made me so rich by real-estate to begin with. I would gladly sell my $12 million dollar property to get rid of these planes. All of the executives should go away and this area should go back to horse farms like when I was a youngster.


2 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 12, 2015 at 7:25 pm

Surf Air is at San Carlos because it is a county airport. County airports are more vulnerable to companies like Surf Air. Palo Alto Airport is now owned by the city so has more control.

A good place for Surf Air to expand would be Reid-Hillview which is on the south side of San Jose. Check out their web page - very professional presentation for the airport. It looks to me like they would like to get more traffic and the added income for supporting Surf Air.


Like this comment
Posted by Anthony
a resident of Mayfield
on May 4, 2017 at 7:24 am

[Post removed.]


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