News

Editorial: An encouraging first step by the FAA

Time will tell whether it's a serious initiative or just lip service

Prodded for months by three members of Congress and an increasingly organized group of Peninsula and Santa Cruz County residents, the Federal Aviation Administration finally announced this week it was reviewing and reconsidering new flight policies and procedures that are generating unprecedented noise complaints from local residents.

The FAA's initiative, announced Monday not by the agency but by Reps. Anna Eshoo, Sam Farr and Jackie Speier, is the most encouraging news yet that protests over the last few months by citizens, local and county officials and the three congresspersons may be getting heard by Washington aviation regulators.

And with lawsuits filed in Phoenix and by a group of Portola Valley residents, with more sure to come elsewhere, the FAA may finally be realizing it has created a mess out of a new system designed to streamline and modernize commercial aircraft arrival and departure flight paths and procedures at major U.S. airports.

As we commented last week, applying direct political pressure on the FAA is much more likely to result in quicker positive changes than any long-shot legislative solution in a dysfunctional Congress.

While we are happy to finally see some concrete movement from the FAA, we are concerned that the agency's initiative comes in the form of an unsigned, unattributed summary that does not even identify it as being a statement of the agency.

It fails to identify a single FAA official who is accountable for the initiative nor even a contact person for more information. And after each item to be studied or evaluated, the summary states that work began seven weeks ago, on Oct. 2, and shows a completion date of "TBD."

According the press release issued by Eshoo, Farr and Speier, the FAA "authored" the initiative and Speier is quoted as stating that "for the first time in many years, (the FAA) has committed to studying ideas submitted by the affected communities." She called the initiative a "compilation of the ideas that were offered by the public" at recent meetings and said, "Some of these ideas may be deemed workable by the FAA and some may not."

Indeed, the document, which states it was "compiled" at the request of Eshoo, Farr and Speier, reads more like a laundry list of possible actions rather than a focused strategy. It is full of technical and bureaucratic jargon ("The FAA will conduct a detailed analysis to include preliminary feasibility from a procedures/criteria perspective and fly-ability from an aircraft perspective. Procedures will be analyzed, modeled and flown in flight simulators").

According to the document, the FAA has agreed to take a fresh look at the new "NextGen" procedures and assess whether they can be modified to increase inbound aircraft altitudes, move flight paths to over water where possible, shift noisy aircraft speed changes to over the bay, change or add new "waypoints" to distribute air traffic over a larger area, change late-night flight patterns and review cargo operations. It also acknowledges the value of obtaining more community input, something severely lacking in the lead up to the implementation of the new system.

The "initiative" is progress toward achieving needed improvements to the current situation, and we hope it reflects a genuine changed attitude on the part of the FAA. However, without any timeline for completion nor any FAA official identified as the person responsible for its execution, we are concerned that it may be designed more to quiet the public and congressional outcry than an acknowledgement that mistakes have been made and changes are needed.

The FAA's document goes out of its way to make it appear that addressing the noise problems with aircraft arrivals involves a complex review and analysis of the entire new system, when those who are familiar with the new technologies suggest the fixes are not nearly so complicated and primarily involve some common sense adjustments to increase altitudes of planes when they cross the Peninsula (to levels they were previously using) and the implementation of more varied traffic lanes so the same area (currently Palo Alto) is not getting a disproportionate number of flights crossing over it.

A plan with no timetable or deadlines can't be trusted or relied upon, as Eshoo, Farr and Speier surely know. We hope and assume they will continue to keep behind-the-scenes pressure on the FAA and urge concerned citizens to not be lulled into quieting their protests or suspending the filing of noise complaints.

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Comments

1 person likes this
Posted by PA Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2015 at 8:42 am

"those who are familiar with the new technologies suggest the fixes are not nearly so complicated and primarily involve some common sense adjustments to increase altitudes of planes when they cross the Peninsula"

Could the Weekly elaborate on this? It would be good to know who is familiar with the new technologies and for them to please explain to the community why they think that.

If it's simple, perhaps a story about that could help explain.


3 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 20, 2015 at 9:26 am

Low and slow, high and quiet.

If an airliner comes in low and slow, it must add power to adjust. Adding power, particularly at lower altitudes, creates objectionable noise.

The FAA traffic pattern and Air Traffic Control (ATC) can direct planes to glide toward their landing points using higher altitudes. Then, if an aircraft speed slows and the plane descends to a lower altitude, it still may not require adding power to adjust to an acceptable altitude. A simple trim of the flaps may do it, since the plane began its downward glide higher than the minimum acceptable altitude.


11 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Nov 20, 2015 at 10:03 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

""those who are familiar with the new technologies suggest the fixes are not nearly so complicated and primarily involve some common sense adjustments to increase altitudes of planes when they cross the Peninsula"

I have posted two different ways to significantly reduce the ground noise problem.

The first proposal shifts all the entry point for SFO approaches to three Initial Approaches (IAF) fixes at the South end of the Bay and those intercerptions would take place at or above 7000 ft.. The negative aspect of the first proposal is that is does concentrate all traffic over the three IAFs and these IAF are above populated areas (although the 7000 ft or above entry altitude greatly reduces the ground level noise below these IAFs.


The second proposal randomly distributes all SFO inbound flights over a series of interception points beginning at 10 miles from SFO and continuing out to 25 miles from SFO. This random distribution would spread traffic over the entire South Bay area and some of that traffic that intercepts closer to SFO would of necessity be at lower altitudes in order to intercept the SFO glide paths at the proposer altitude.

Here are the two proposals

First proposal:

1 - All SFO inbound traffic from the North and the East must use the RNAV (GPS) X RWY 28R approach and must enter that approach at the ANETE Initial Approach Fix (IAF) for which the minimum crossing altitude is 7000 ft

Alternatively these aircraft could us the ILS or LOC RWY 28R approach and must enter at ARCHI IAF for which the minimum crossing altitude is 7000 ft,

2 - All SFO inbound traffic from the South and the West must use the RNAV (GPS) X RWY 28L approach and must enter that approach at the Faith IAF which has a minimum crossing altitude of 7000 ft.

Entry to this approach via MENLO intersection would not be permitted.

Alternatively these aircraft could us the ILS or LOC RWY 28L approach and must enter at the FAITH IAF for which the minimum crossing altitude is 7000 ft

Entry to this approach via MENLO intersection would not be permitted.

3 - SFO and SJC must be landing in the same direction unless the wind differential between them is greater than 1o knots.

This proposal uses existing and established waypoints and procedures and does not impinge on the SJC airspace.

Second proposal:

Using the concept of a herring bone pattern and Advanced (or curved) Controlled Descent Approachs (CDAs) here is a Draft SFO Arrivals Protocol:

1 Establish two 25 mile plus 284 degree radials fro SFO one as an extension of Runway 28 Right and the second as an extension of Runway 28 Left.

2 Place intercept points on each of these 284 deg radials at half mile intervals starting 10 miles from SFO where the 3 degree glide path interception point would be at 3000 ft and continuing out to the 25 mile point for a total of 32 interception points on both radials.

3 ATC to randomly assign Curving CDAs to airplanes from the North and East to the 16 interception points on 28 Right radial.

4 ATC to randomly assign Curving CDAs to airplanes from the South and West to the 16 interception points on 28 Left radial.

5 Between 2100 (9 PM) and 0600 (6 AM) aircraft would be randomly assigned to interceptions point no closer than 20 miles from SFO.

6 Future improvements could be made when and if steeper glide paths (greater than 3 degrees) are approved.

**********************

What are the specific problems with these two proposal?

How can they be improved?

Are they compatible with NextGen technology?

Are they simple?

Are they equitable?

PS. If readers are interested I will post the links for the IAFs and a link to a description of the herringbone pattern.


16 people like this
Posted by Jonathan Brown
a resident of Ventura
on Nov 20, 2015 at 10:48 am

Last night plane noise woke me up at 3:05 AM out of a sound sleep. That's totally unacceptable. Eliminating middle-of-the-night disturbance should be the highest priority, as the current flight patterns are negatively impacting our health by disrupting our sleep. I'm glad to read that "change late-night flight patterns" is on the list.


23 people like this
Posted by Cheryl Lilienstein
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 20, 2015 at 12:11 pm

Thanks to Sky Posse and others for pressing on...
Awakening at night and constantly being interrupted during the day are equally disturbing. My home is DIRECTLY under the flight path.

Thanks Weekly for pointing out the lack of attribution or timeline for this comforting but possibly less than meaningful response. Possibly the representatives responsible could request clarity on WHO is responsible and BY WHEN this will be done?


8 people like this
Posted by Eric
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 21, 2015 at 8:30 am

One of these early flights: "Nippon Cargo 109", a Boeing 747-800 4-engine jumbo jet from LAX to SFO, a daily flight that arrives in SFO 5:46am. (Why a Japanese jumbo jet flies daily LAX-SFO, and why it has to be so early?) It usually flies across Palo Alto low and loud. Other than filing a complaint to SFO, I'm not sure what else can be done.


Like this comment
Posted by Eric
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 21, 2015 at 8:35 am

*Its scheduled arrival time is 4:46am, not 5:46.


6 people like this
Posted by PA resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2015 at 9:11 am

Eric,

"Other than filing a complaint to SFO, I'm not sure what else can be done."

Last night I filed 3 complaints (middle of the night) and this morning as well - one of them must have been that flight. I use the app stop jet noise stop.jetnoise.net

In Anna Eshoo's response to last week's Editorial about the same topic she says that without complaints filed, the FAA would not respond. Web Link

"This is all part of a broad strategy to engage the FAA directly with those impacted, and, without countless letters and phone calls with the FAA, public meetings, legislative efforts and complaints filed by my constituents, I doubt the FAA would have agreed to produce an action plan to respond to the complaints and suggestions of constituents covering three congressional districts."


Like this comment
Posted by Bunyip
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 26, 2015 at 7:49 am

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by PA Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 26, 2015 at 9:30 am

Bunyip,

San Francisco, and San Jose are among the largest cities in the country. They should have most of the traffic if you are suggesting that usage should determine where the noise goes.


7 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 26, 2015 at 12:35 pm

Who is in control of the flights in the landing pattern seems to be a case of the pointer sisters. My understanding is that the ATC in Sacramento has control of the planes while in flight then they get passed over to the local airport for the coordination on landing.

If that is the case then SFO has control of the plane cited above that is the lone wolf out there - no other competition for flight space. So why is it allowed to fly so low? That does not make sense.

SFO needs to take the plane and all others that are in the period prior to 6AM and move them higher up in altitude and over a less populated space.
There has to be some balance here on who is in charge. The pilot should not be calling the shots.
Is that doable?


2 people like this
Posted by yiobun
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 26, 2015 at 5:37 pm

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 26, 2015 at 9:14 pm

[Post removed.]


7 people like this
Posted by Paly Grad
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Nov 28, 2015 at 6:25 pm

Planes are still flying "Loud & Low" over Palo Alto and East Palo Alto.

AAL209 @ 3,225' over East Palo Alto at 6:21 pm this evening.


15 people like this
Posted by PLeaseStop
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 14, 2015 at 10:49 pm

The SFO planes flying over our home tonight has been non-stop. My whole family is awake because of the noise. When will this ever stop?


11 people like this
Posted by Paly Grad
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Dec 20, 2015 at 10:13 pm

How low are jets allowed to fly?

Delta 1684 Boeing 757 @ 1,675' @ 10:08 pm

American 601 Airbus A 320 @ 1,675' @ 10:03 pm

Just asking.


2 people like this
Posted by Whoa
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 20, 2015 at 10:42 pm


I heard them, they were crazy, WT..........




Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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