News

Federal Aviation Administration approves Surf Air route to take planes over Bay

Commuter airline company says changes go into effect July 5

Commuter airline Surf Air has received permission from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to start flying a new approach to the San Carlos Airport, sending its planes over the Bay from Moffett Field past the Dumbarton Bridge whenever conditions allow, starting on Tuesday, July 5.

The FAA on June 20 told San Mateo County, which owns and operates the San Carlos Airport, that the modified approach to the airport, which the county had asked for as a "noise mitigation measure," can be used as a test for six months.

County Airports Division Manager Gretchen Kelly said that at the end of the six-month period the FAA will decide whether to implement the new route on a permanent basis based on its operational effects, environmental consequences and community reaction.

The airline will be allowed to use the new route whenever conditions allow a visual approach to the airport and when flights do not interfere with other flights into nearby airports.

Officials at the San Carlos Airport told the Almanac that a review of a year of weather records show that the approach could have been used 86 percent of the time in 2015.

Jim Sullivan, Surf Air's senior vice president of operations, said the airline will start using the new route on July 5.

"We're thrilled, obviously," he said. "We're very excited that this has all come together."

Sullivan said the airline has been ready to use the new route since the end of May, but was waiting for approval from the FAA. Surf Air had its "check pilots," who train other pilots, fly the route 31 times to evaluate it, and had "nothing but positive comments," he said.

San Mateo County Board of Supervisors President Warren Slocum, who represents the North Fair Oaks area that has generated many noise complaints about the Surf Air flights, said the county will be careful to note if the change in route generates noise complaints from other areas, such as the neighborhoods that lie between the current route and Moffett Field.

Kelly said the San Carlos Airport received only one noise complaint during the 31 test flights of the route in May; that was from a resident in Redwood City. She said the aircraft was approximately one lateral mile from the caller's home.

Slocum said the board is also working on longer-term solutions to problems at the airport. While a report from consultants hired by the county to look at the airport will be presented on June 28, he said specific ideas and recommendations for action will not come back until October.

Slocum said he and Supervisor Don Horsley, who represents the district including the airport and Atherton, which has also generated many complaints about Surf Air noise, have spent a long time working to resolve the issues.

"I know it's taken a long time," he said. "These things take time."

The county, and other local officials and residents, have been working with Surf Air since October 2013, just months after Surf Air started flying scheduled flights in and out of the San Carlos Airport in June 2013. The airline's small turboprop planes are especially noisy, residents who live under the flight path have said. The success of the airline, which allows its members to take unlimited flights, has led to the addition of more flights.

In March, the county supervisors approved a "San Carlos Aircraft Disturbance Study" to look at possible short- and long-term solutions.

The county has hired an aviation consultant, an aviation noise consultant and a polling firm to help with the research.

Adam Ullman, a North Fair Oaks resident speaking on behalf of the Calm The Skies citizens' group, said that residents have a number of concerns about the new route as a solution to the problems caused by Surf Air, including the fact that flying it is voluntary and that it can be flown only under certain conditions.

"The county needs to address the long-term planning of the airport and put in place reasonable measures to limit the impact of planes flying 1,000 feet over our homes and schools," he said. "This does not accomplish that."

Ullman said the new route also "doesn't address the bigger issue of commercial service into" the San Carlos Airport "and what constitutes (as) acceptable volume levels of service from any single operator."

"Without a permanent fix," he said, another such airline could come in "and we start from square one again."

Horsley said the county is "conscious of the fact that (the new route) may impact other communities." He said the mayors of other cities Surf Air could begin flying over will be notified of the test.

"We don't really think it's fair to transfer the noise from one neighborhood to another," he said.

Changing Surf Air's approach route also does not eliminate all the problems at the airport, he said. The county is monitoring the noise from airport take-offs, which fly over different nearby neighborhoods as well. "That is a little tougher to control," he said.

Horsley said the county is also looking at doing things such as building "additional airport hangars" for small private planes that would leave less tie-down space for planes like the size of the ones Surf Air uses.

"We have a big need for hangar space," he said, adding that there is a waitlist for hangars.

"We are looking at all of the policies and procedures at the airport as well," he said. "We want to make sure we do not end up with another commercial airline at the airport."

Horsley apologized for the amount of time finding a solution has taken.

"I wish it were faster," he said. "I know our constituents have suffered from this a long time."

Atherton's Mayor Elizabeth Lewis said that getting to the new route has taken a lot of work by a lot of people: the resident group, the supervisors, Rep. Anna Eshoo, staff at San Carlos Airport, Surf Air and the FAA.

"To get to this point is huge," she said. "Hopefully during the six-month trial we will experience a significant reduction in overflight noise."

Lewis said she hopes that the supervisors will also look closely at how to best manage the numbers of regularly scheduled flights in and out of the airport and the times of flights.

"I believe that it is not suitable for use as a busy commercial airport," she said.

Comments

3 people like this
Posted by Jon Rodgers
a resident of another community
on Jun 23, 2016 at 6:39 pm

I sure hope they notify Sunnyvale. I don't think Surf Air wanted them to know about it.


8 people like this
Posted by Carolyn Ordonez
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 24, 2016 at 7:54 am

[Portion removed.] I have repeatedly sent noise complaints via email and phone since the flight path started. I talked to Gretchen Kelly in May complaining about the airline flying right over the top of my house in the flood triangle. I complained just yesterday, June 23, that surf air flew over at 8:00 am. I also have tried calling Kelly numerous times to find out why surf air continues to fly over when she specifically told me they would not fly over any houses after June 1. She has not returned the four phone messages I have left. This is a case of Atherton moving the flight path and noise over another neighborhood. We already listen, 24/7, to US 101 and are now the flight path for nextgen to SFO. Really? How much do you expect us to take? Everyone, including Atherton has to share in the inconvenience of "progress".


1 person likes this
Posted by Barbara Wood
a resident of Woodside
on Jun 24, 2016 at 9:08 am

Barbara Wood is a registered user.

The new flight path does not go into effect until July 5. There were 31 test flights in May, otherwise Surf Air has been flying the same flight path it has always flown. As the map shows, under visual flight rules conditions, the airline has a much bigger area it can fly over.


1 person likes this
Posted by Jon Rodgers
a resident of another community
on Jun 24, 2016 at 11:26 am

The FAA only "approved" the procedure so that Surf Air could operate in Moffit Field's airspace. It has nothing to do with the noise issue which is San Mateo County's responsibility to fix. They have hired three consultants that will either fix the problem, do nothing, or create a bigger problem. Time will tell.


Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 24, 2016 at 12:37 pm

It is nice to see some progress here. But it is side stepping the obvious. The San Jose Airport has expanded their facilities and fields considerably in preparation for the Super Bowl and has extensive hanger space for the private side of the airport - west side. Since this was not an option before the job for helicopter schools and private airlines has fallen onto smaller county airports that are not really appropriate for this type of constant commercial use and noise. In addition the amount of fuel that has to be stored to service all of the additional flights is problematical. The San Carlos Airport, as well as other county airports do not have the heavy security features as does SJC - which even has breaches in security.

Surf Air would do well to consider the use of the San Jose airport private side so that it can expand it's business base in a facility that is built for heavy commercial traffic. I don't think Surf Air would do well at Moffett since there are heavy security features at that airport which are separate from the type security issues at SJC.

SFO has a private airline section which could also be used by Surf Air. Trying to shoe horn that activity into small county airports is not a great business builder in the long term.


4 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 24, 2016 at 12:57 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

Surf Air is 1% of the problem that the big jet SFO traffic is.


Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 24, 2016 at 1:21 pm

The topic of this stream is Surf Air and the problems surrounding the constant noise and disruption it causes. SFO traffic is a separate problem that is continually addressed in this forum.


4 people like this
Posted by Carolyn Ordonez
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 26, 2016 at 5:03 pm

No, Barbara Woods they are not just following the old flight path they always flew. I finally talked to Gretchen Kelly at San Carlos airport and she acknowledged that surf air has been using US 101 as a visual at times. I was told they are not to do this. I am three houses from 101 and they flew right over my house yesterday at 8:03am. I think surf air flies wherever they want to and now they have permission to increase the swath of their flight path.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 26, 2016 at 6:16 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" I think surf air flies wherever they want to and now they have permission to increase the swath of their flight path."

SurfAir was asked by the community to spread their approaches out when flying in VFR conditions so that all the flights do not go over exactly the same homes.

SurfAir has done exactly that.

Thank you SurfAir.


2 people like this
Posted by Carolyn Ordonez
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 26, 2016 at 8:29 pm

On Friday June 24, 2016 I talked with Gretchen Kelly, the manager of San Carlos Airport, about Surf Air. Kelly told me after July 5 th Surf Air is to follow the new flight path over the bay and not over any houses. If for visibility reasons the new flight path is not working the old, original flight path is to be used. Kelly said SurfAir mistakenly thought they could use US 101 as a visual. They have been told they can not.
Kelly was adamant that the flight path is not to be moved over other neighborhoods. Never did she say SurfAir has been asked to spread their approach.
The point I am trying to make is everyone has to share in the annoyance of what makes the world move. I listen to US 101. I accept that. And now I have " nextgen " flying right over my house and neighborhood. And I am supposed to have SurfAir?


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 26, 2016 at 8:40 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Never did she say SurfAir has been asked to spread their approach."

Then you never asked her because she is well aware of both that request and the fact that SurfAir has kindly done just that.


2 people like this
Posted by Not to nitpick but
a resident of Mayfield
on Jun 26, 2016 at 8:47 pm

The bottom line is we were told that Surf Air would fly above the Bay, and so far many flights have been more or less above 101 instead, and above the houses in the vicinity of 101, which is not at all the same thing as flying above the Bay.


6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 26, 2016 at 9:01 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" Surf Air would fly above the Bay"

Starting July 5th !!


27 people like this
Posted by Jim
a resident of another community
on Jun 28, 2016 at 1:30 am

So you guys decided that the best way to "solve" San Mateo County's airport noise problem was to simply transfer it to our city of Sunnyvale, since it's a different county, and you wouldn't have to deal with the consequences of an irresponsible action by a government being a bad neighbor?

We're already carrying more than our burden of airport noise, since half our city is under the approach to Moffett, which is authorized for 25,000 flight cycles per year. And we're fine doing so, since we're big supporters of both NASA and the 129th ARW. But stop passing the buck and go solve your own damn airport problems. If you guys want to operate airlines out of your airfield, then deal with the consequences of your decisions yourselves, and don't make others pay for them.


3 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 28, 2016 at 11:39 am

As a side note I road up to SF on Caltrain and talked to people who live in Los Gatos who now have airplanes over head because Saratoga complained about the noise. Yes - the route was moved from one city to another because of citizens complaints. But they are all in the same county.
I agree with Jim - San Mateo County seems to be able to move a lot of air traffic out of their area - possible because SFO is in San Mateo County and is a big financial supporter of that county with the airport and associated travel businesses.


Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton

on Jun 29, 2016 at 6:50 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.


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8 people like this
Posted by Helps Sunnyvale
a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2016 at 6:54 am

He is right:

""So you guys decided that the best way to "solve" San Mateo County's airport noise problem was to simply transfer it to our city of Sunnyvale,"

Actually if you look at the map the new routing decreases SurfAir traffic over the more populated parts of Sunnyvale by having the planes from from AMBEY over Moffat to the Bay. Without this change the planes would continue to fly NW over more populated areas of Sunnyvale."


20 people like this
Posted by Jim G.
a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2016 at 11:58 am

Jim G. is a registered user.

If the rather general map in this article is any indication, then no it does NOT help Sunnyvale. Highway 85 is the Sunnyvale border. So if that map is any indication, the amount of flight time spent over heavily populated residential neighborhoods in Sunnyvale after AMEBY 3900' IFR doubles through this proposal.

Further, planes aren't actually going to follow that exact path over AMEBY when they fly over Sunnyvale. They're going to cut the corner by flying a straighter route a little more east, just like the current Moffett air traffic does, and they'll hit our residential neighborhoods even harder in the process.

The more I look at this, the more I see the worst form of NIMBYism in this. San Mateo County wants to operate an airport but not bear any of the burden of its impacts - and even worse, it actively shifts that burden to other cities in other counties who are already dealing with far worse airport impacts. And then for San Mateo County and the FAA to finalize this decision WITHOUT EVER CONTACTING THE CITY OF SUNNYVALE, that's just irresponsible leadership and decision-making in the dead of night. There's no justification for failing to tell Sunnyvale about this proposal until after it was a done deal - none whatsoever. This whole effort stinks of buck-passing NIMBYism and bad faith.


6 people like this
Posted by Not to nitpick but
a resident of Mayfield
on Jul 6, 2016 at 9:03 pm

OK, so we are now July 6, 2016 and Surf Air planes flying inbound to San Carlos should be "Over the Bay".

Lo and behold, this evening I am hearing loud flights over the eastern part of Midtown Palo Alto. Sure enough, when I go track these on a web tracker, I find that there are inbound Surf Air flights flying above 101 and our neighborhood this evening, just as there were on June 26. Where is the "over the bay" change?


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 15, 2016 at 5:48 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

From 10 am Saturday, through the last arrival last night, SurfAir had 99 arrivals with 92 on the Visual via Bayside and only 7 on the AMEBY approach.

Flights this morning were on the AMEBY approach due to the cloud cover.

I presume those who were previously so outspoken about SurfAir will now offer their thanks.


Like this comment
Posted by reader20
a resident of another community
on Jul 18, 2016 at 10:12 pm

The article says the FAA is taking community on the new route for the next 6 months but it didn't give a way to contact the FAA. So far, all the FAA numbers listed have said they are not the right divisions to receive public input. Can someone please share a valid FAA contact email or phone number so people can give them input?


Like this comment
Posted by yblackford
a resident of another community
on Jul 19, 2016 at 7:35 am

yblackford is a registered user.

San Carlos Airport (SQL)
Noise Hotline: 844-266-6266
Noise Complaint Form: Web Link
Main Phone: 650-573-3700


4 people like this
Posted by NIMBYism
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 19, 2016 at 8:27 am

To Jim G.
I feel for you Sunnyville residents. You are being dumped on by Surf Air/San Carlos Airport , A decision made by the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors which is part of San Mateo County. Palo Alto is now the main arrival zone for SFO. This did not happen by accident for over 13 years or so, the SFO around table including San Francisco airport FAA pilots Association's all kinds of technical consultants came up with a way to lessen their air port noise by pushing it down to Palo Alto . San Mateo County really knows how to get rid of its NOISE issues, just dump it to the South....Santa Clara County.It is strange that this is not brought up time and time again. The FAA doesn't seem to take responsibility, the round table doesn't, SFO doesn't , at a minimum the Santa Clara Board of Supervisors could've spoken up on your behalf, and said that they don't want any traffic from San Mateo to come down there. Good luck with getting some relief.


4 people like this
Posted by North Fair Oaks family
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 20, 2017 at 9:24 pm

We are not opposed to the proposed routing of planes from Moffet over the Bay. It seems like a reasonable interim solution, but there don't seem to be any regulations about how many flights per day, curfews & keeping to the Bay corridor. Perfectly clear days have seen planes leaving/arriving every 2-5 minutes for 4 & 5 at a time. Not everyone is away at work somewhere else all day. The planes are very loud & fly directly over our house at a low level - actually blocking the sun. It sounds like dive-bombers and interferes with phone & in-person conversations, hearing radio & television. I can no longer work from home. The constant flights beginning pre-7:00 a.m. to late night, day after day, are nerve wracking & enervating, esp for older, ill folks & people like my Father that lived through the constant terror of German & Allied bombers in Austria. The lights at night stream directly into my bedroom (yes, I have shades) & wake me up; I can see the pilots. Stress, anxiety, insomnia, concentration loss are a few of the reactions we have been experiencing with the influx of commuter lines, helicopters & personal jets from both San Carlos & Palo Alto. The noise pollution is out of control. Sixteen years ago this was an incredibly quiet neighborhood. Friends came from the City to rest & sleep. It is simply intolerable now. Why is quiet not a basic human right?


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