Committee outlines potential plane-noise recommendations | News | Palo Alto Online |


Committee outlines potential plane-noise recommendations

Palo Alto, surrounding cities could see noise reduce through planes flying at higher altitudes, other measures

A multi-city and county committee tasked with finding ways to reduce overhead noise from airplanes going to and from San Francisco International Airport has released preliminary proposed recommendations.

The 12-member Select Committee on South Bay Arrivals has considered multiple suggestions from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), community groups and professionals since first convening in March at the invitation of U.S. Reps. Anna Eshoo, Sam Farr and Jackie Speier.

Residents in Santa Clara, San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties have been affected by the increase in flights and noise since the FAA rolled out a new nationwide air traffic program, NextGen, which was mandated by Congress to make the nation's aviation network more efficient. The Bay Area launched NextGen routes in March 2015, to the consternation of many residents -- particularly in Palo Alto, over which three flight paths converge before heading to SFO.

The Select Committee, which is chaired by Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, was cautious in formulating potential recommendations, stressing that the 34-page document is a working paper and that the committee had not yet made recommendations; these are only proposed.

The path to making recommendations to the FAA has been contentious, with communities at times in vocal opposition to each other's proposals. In some areas of concern, the committee did not yet commit to a recommendation, instead choosing to identify the things they could agree on and leave open for discussion those where consensus is not yet reached.

The public will have a chance to weigh in on Oct. 27, when the committee will hold a public comment hearing from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Palo Alto City Council Chambers.

The committee's ideas fall into three categories: Those based on the FAA's proposals; the public's proposals ("other potential solutions"), and longer-term issues. Below are summaries of key parts of the document and possible recommendations most likely to impact Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Mountain View and Menlo Park.

The FAA proposals:

Change restricted airspace around SFO

The Committee would recommend changing the shape of the restricted airspace around SFO, known as Class B airspace, which is designed to ensure a higher level of safety for arriving aircraft.

The FAA proposed altering the size or shape of the airspace so that pilots wouldn't need to use altitude and speed adjustments to stay in the prescribed zone.

Currently the airspace parameters forces planes arriving from the south over the Santa Cruz Mountains to have to“level off” to stay within the airspace. That requires aircraft to use speed brakes, increase thrust, and other methods that create greater noise. Communities most affected include near Capitola and the Midpeninsula.

Move the southern arrival flight path to the west, near the former Big Sur route

The Committee has not yet determined if it will recommend the alternative.

NextGen moved the flight path of planes arriving from the south at SFO more to the east, putting aircraft over some coastal residents in the Santa Cruz area who had not previously been in the flight path. NextGen removed a flight path called Big Sur. The proposed route, DAVYJ, would be similar to the Big Sur track: roughly 3-4 miles to the west of the current flight path, which is near the Santa Cruz County coastline near Capitola.

But DAVYJ, while strongly favored by some Santa Cruz County residents, is also widely opposed by many Midpeninsula residents. They point out that the FAA's own data show that decibel levels would greatly increase for many Midpeninsula residents living in the most densely populated areas, and the higher noise levels would occur over a longer swath, particularly over Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and parts of Mountain View.

Other potential solutions

Higher altitudes over MENLO waypoint

The designated point over which all of the planes from the south must pass, the MENLO waypoint, is located several city blocks south of the intersection of Willow Road and Highway 101. Planes currently cross at 4,000 feet, although by an agreement arranged more than a decade ago through Eshoo and then-Palo Alto Mayor Gary Fazzino, planes were supposed to fly no lower than 5,000 feet.

The Committee would recommend planes fly at a higher altitude at the MENLO waypoint and that the FAA assess if a different waypoint would be feasible. The committee noted it does not recommend that a different waypoint be established if it results in shifting noise to other communities.

The City of Palo Alto, which hired consultants Freytag & Associates to study the problem, suggested that a new waypoint should be located to the east and/or north of MENLO, presumably over a less populated area and at a higher altitude. Other existing waypoints located in San Francisco Bay just to the north and south of the eastern shoreline of the Dumbarton Bridge might be used. Planes crossing at these Bay waypoints would be at a higher altitude.

In June 2016, an average of 183 aircraft crossed each day over this waypoint, representing 30 percent of the arrivals into SFO over one of the Peninsula's most populated areas, according to the FAA. Currently 50 percent of the aircraft on the path are "vectored" prior to the MENLO waypoint, causing additional low-altitude noise and air traffic over these communities.

Increase altitudes and how planes descend into SFO

The Select Committee would recommend that planes come in at a slightly steeper approach that would allow them to begin their descent at a higher altitude, which would reduce noise. The committee would also recommend that, to the greatest extent possible, while still ensuring the safety of the aircraft, that the altitude be increased for all flight paths in and out of SFO.

Retrofit certain planes with wake vortex generators to reduce noise

The Committee would recommend retrofitting a certain class of aircraft, the Airbus A320 built before 2014, with wake vortex generators to reduce noise.

Airbus A320 aircraft built before 2014 make a whistling or whining sound on approach due to the design of the wing. The whine can be reduced by mounting a small air deflector on each wing. The technology reportedly costs $3,000-$5,000 per plane. The noise reduction is claimed to be two to 11 decibels, depending on flight factors. Roughly 35 percent of the aircraft arriving and departing SFO need the retrofit.

Shift northern arrivals to the Bodega "East" leg

Planes arriving from the north currently use the Bodega path, in which planes reach a point roughly over Daly City and continue south flying past SFO, using either the Peninsula (the so-called West leg) or San Francisco Bay (the East leg), to make a U-turn for landing on two runways. The Bodega East leg shares the final approach path into SFO with aircraft arriving from the east.

The Committee would recommend greater use of the Bodega East leg for planes. From 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., when air traffic is lighter, virtually all such aircraft should come in using the San Francisco Bay approach, the committee is proposing.

Planes using the East leg create a dramatically lesser noise impact versus aircraft using the West leg, which flies over the highly populated Midpeninsula, and particularly Palo Alto. Air traffic was almost evenly split between the two legs, but in May 2016 roughly 70 percent of the arriving aircraft began flying over the Midpeninsula.

Redirect southern arrivals to an eastern approach into SFO

The Committee has not endorsed this solution

SERFR is a southern arrival path into SFO approaching from the south over the Santa Cruz Mountains. Flights on the path include aircraft from the southwest, such as Phoenix and Houston.

The City of Palo Alto suggested in its Oct. 10 consultant's report that the aircraft from the southwest should removed and use an eastern approach into SFO. Aircraft would either use an existing arrival procedure used for flights arriving at SFO from the east with a flight path that enters the Bay roughly between Milpitas and San Jose, or use a new procedure, which is located at the intersection of Hostetter Road and Morrill Avenue, east of Interstate 680 in East San Jose.

The FAA said this proposed solution raises a number of potential concerns. In June 2016, the first suggested route already carried the greatest percentage of daily air traffic into SFO, an average of 253 aircraft per day, or 41 percent of the arriving traffic. The procedure also shares the final approach path into the airport with aircraft arriving from the north on the Bodega procedure), specifically the 30 percent of Bodega arrivals on the East leg.

The FAA has also said that using the new route potentially conflicts with departures out of San Jose International Airport and moves existing noise to another community. But the existence of an overnight curfew at San Jose International Airport might accommodate a new procedure using the new waypoint as a potential solution in the overnight hours. The FAA may, therefore, want to examine whether this proposed solution, or a variation thereof, could be effectively implemented without shifting noise.

Enforce 8,000 foot minimum over Woodside navigational beacon

In July 1998, a procedure was instituted that required flights over the Woodside navigational beacon to be no lower than 8,000 feet above sea level, “traffic permitting.”

The Select Committee would recommend that planes comply with the 8,000-foot altitude, traffic permitting. The altitude restriction would also apply to all vectored flights in the Woodside beacon area. Further restrictions would prohibit any overnight crossings at Woodside below 8,000 feet.

Numerous reports from the community claim the planes are currently not honoring the 1998 agreement and are flying at much lower altitudes including at night when residents are particularly sensitive to noise. Some flights are allowed to come in at 6,000 feet over this point, including overnight. An estimated 36 percent of Oceanic flights arriving at SFO between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. fly over the Woodside point.

Develop new rules for overnight flights

The Committee would recommend that the FAA, SFO, and industry users work to establish new, additional overnight noise-abatement procedures within the next six months.

Flights are considerably reduced during night hours starting at 11 p.m., and there is considerable potential for aircraft to be rerouted over the San Francisco Bay and Pacific Ocean, instead of the Peninsula, the committee noted.

Modify where aircraft can vector

The Committee would recommend that the FAA identify locations with the most compatible land uses for vectoring, which involves turning aircraft off the assigned procedure or flight path. To vector, air-traffic-control gives orders to change speed, make a turn or alter altitude, which can cause increased noise.

New vector locations could be over the Pacific Ocean or San Francisco Bay.

Vectoring is common over Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, Palo Alto and Mountain View from east (Oceanic), north (Bodega) and south-arriving flights. Roughly 50 percent of the arrivals from the south are currently vectored so they will be sequenced and spaced properly for arrival.

If the pilot is not given a speed or altitude restriction by air-traffic control, it is unlikely that noise will result, according to the committee.

Modify arrival procedure into San Jose International Airport

The Committee has not determined a potential recommendation.

The northern arrival path into San Jose International Airport, called BRIXX, runs down the Peninsula, roughly over La Honda and Boulder Creek before turning and flying south and then east and north for a final approach. The path intersects with the southern-arrival path (SERFR) going to SFO.

Under NextGen, the arrival path became more concentrated; with vectoring moving southward. About 76 percent of the BRIXX flights are vectored or turned off the flight path prior to the point where the two flight paths intersect. These changes resulted in complaints from residents in affected areas.

Suggestions have included moving the intersection of the two flight paths farther to the north and east, potentially over the Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve; and increasing the altitude of the San Jose flight path so that it is above the altitude of the southern flight arrival path. But the FAA said that could move noise further into the Midpeninsula area already being impacted.

Longer-term issues

Any recommendation from the committee should not be deemed to end the discussion, or the problems. The Select Committee may also recommend establishing a permanent committee to address regional aircraft noise issues. That organization would be an adjunct committee of one of the existing community roundtables at either the San Francisco or Oakland International airports. It could include a new, independent commission devoted to airport noise or and other airport issues, and it would continue the work done by the Select Committee.

The committee also recommended noise-measurement modifications that would more accurately take into account the noise experienced by people on the ground. Noise levels currently are taken cumulatively within a 24-hour period and don't accurately measure the true impact experienced by residents.

The committee would recommend that the U.S. Congress require the FAA to adopt the new measurements. The FAA should also monitor and document noise exposure of any proposed solutions before and after they are put in place so there is a measurement of how well they are working.

The complete draft "Report of the Select Committee on South Bay Arrivals" may be viewed here.

The City of Palo Alto's recommendations can be viewed here.


Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.


12 people like this
Posted by Gary
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 22, 2016 at 12:08 am

Los Altos residents attended the October 18 Mountain View City Council meeting and warned that the plan is partly to move overflights south of Palo Alto over Mountain View and Los Altos. They are "Los Altos Quiet Skies" and refer to Palo AltoPlan, org. Mountain View and Los Altos were never even consulted. What is really going on?

21 people like this
Posted by Net net
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2016 at 7:21 am

Net net is a registered user.


What you saw is a classic pit neighbor against neighbor (PNAN) strategy.

The people instigating pitting neighbor against neighbor have a major interest in doing so because several of the ideas on the report are in conflict with each other. The Davyj camp (which *adds* noise to the Mid-Peninsula - per the FAA's own analysis) is being touted in Los Altos, not on the merits of that plan but from fear mongering about the other plans.

See for yourself the comparison Web Link.

Remember that the plan touted by the PNAN group is causing Class B airspace to be lowered which means more noise for Mt View, a lowering of the skies for everyone.

What the net net? Everyone should be paying attention.

8 people like this
Posted by cheese guy
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 22, 2016 at 9:46 am

[Post removed.]

11 people like this
Posted by Net net
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2016 at 9:58 am

Net net is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

16 people like this
Posted by skydoc
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 22, 2016 at 11:41 am

Cheese Guy-

As part of NextGen, the FAA has narrowed the flight paths into narrow swaths. This means that fewer people overall are affected but those under the swaths get hammered. They call this 'Net Noise Reduction'. If you dont live under one of the swaths, it is easy to wonder what all the fuss is about.

If they put in a new freeway a half mile from your house, it would probably not disturb you.

31 people like this
Posted by Sleepless
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 22, 2016 at 11:54 am

While I applaud the committee tackling this, I left the last meeting with the impression that the FAA was unenthusiastic about either raising or moving the MENLO point. So much noise was moved to Palo Alto as a result of NextGen, and the committee's starting point seems to be that Palo Alto, which had no voice in that noise movement although communities to the north did (and hence we got the noise), now has no rigt to object to the new, much higher noise levels.

Indeed, we do not even have a member on the committee even though our community is the most dramatically affected. Our sole representation is Supervisor Simitian, who appears to see his role as unbiased arbiter rather than advocate for our community.

The committee seems to be very concerned about flights dipping below 8,000 feet over Woodside, which has only a small fraction of the overflights Palo Alto now has. Why are Palo Altons not entitled to a similarly higher ceiling, especially given the availability of the waypoints over the bay just a few miles away that the aviation experts hired at substantial cost to the city have shown to be feasible? Why are we expected to accept our newly-appointed position as the FAA's designated "noise ghetto"?

My once quiet home has become a nearly constant swarm of airplane noise. We joke with our neighbors about the 4:30 a.m. Flight with which we are all familiar, and the fact that we can all now identify when an airbus is headed for SFO. But it really is not the least bit funny.

15 people like this
Posted by Can do
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2016 at 12:35 pm


What is being overlooked is that the FAA has also said that the solutions which help Palo Alto are feasible.

The camp which wants to keep you sleepless is obstructing the solutions like the Over the Bay route (which inures Santa Cruz BTW) by saying it will cause harm to others, NOT TRUE. It's the SERFR/DAVYJ highways which cause harm.

The meetings are filled with the can't do this or that, only the miserable highways can be tweaked.

But the FAA has been saying that they CAN do other stuff, they need to hear from the committee.

Let's support the solutions which actually solve the problem. On Thursday, the twin to SERFR (Davyj) is not on the Draft (as the article points out) and that's the time to speak up for the OTHER solutions.

Everyone, show up at the meeting on Thursday, Oct 27 1-4 pm Palo Alto City Hall and support the solutions which solve the problem.

16 people like this
Posted by Pizza guy
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 22, 2016 at 12:59 pm

There have been, in various threads, comments to the effect that very few people are impacted by these narrow lanes of frequent low commercial flights landing at SFO.

(There have also been comments simply denying that there are many flights or that they are noisy.)

But do these people also believe we should not be spending money on law enforcement because such a low percentage of the residents are victims of violent crime?

Sleep disruption is a very real problem. White noise loud enough to hide these flights is damaging to hearing.

This is not a wild conspiracy or merely a "first world problem."

24 people like this
Posted by CHANGES
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 22, 2016 at 4:08 pm

Look, a change occurred in recent years wherein a massive increase in flights and noise from commercial aircraft were suddenly and horribly affecting Palo Alto. Many of us have been astounded, had our sleep affected - NOW - NOT in the past - and this change is unacceptable. Our local politicians/representatives/staff need to step up and advocate to return the situation to how it was previously. This is a REAL issue, unlike the myriad ones which receive excessive attention. This is meaningful and appropriate to focus on.
It is not OK to dismiss or excuse this - it was a CHANGE and a very material negative impact.
They had no right to make this horrible change.
We also know some flights cut corners and fly lower and quicker into SFO, affecting us. There is an enforcement problem in addition to the recently created situation of beleaguering Palo Alto with excessive aircraft noise.
San Mateo County is no friend to northern Santa Clara County - we see this crystal clear.

2 people like this
Posted by WilliamR
a resident of another community
on Oct 22, 2016 at 8:35 pm

WilliamR is a registered user.

What happened to the plan that Peter Carpenter was promoting a few months ago, that would route most flights over two waypoints northeast of San Jose, and then straight over the bay to the runways?

13 people like this
Posted by Net net
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2016 at 9:30 pm

Net net is a registered user.

William R.

That is the Over the Bay route. It's called "HIGHR" in the modeling done by Palo Alto consultants, uses the waypoint FAITH

Web Link or Web Link

All can agree that flying higher using the full length of the Bay is a good idea and hopefully especially at night!

8 people like this
Posted by skydoc
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 22, 2016 at 9:40 pm

William R- One of the plans proposed by consultants hired by the City is extremely similar to what Peter Carpenter suggested. Unfortunately, the Summit Group are actively trying to sabotage it with a campaign of misinformation and lies.

Like this comment
Posted by Speaking of Lies
a resident of Los Altos
on Oct 23, 2016 at 12:33 am

The Sky Possee noise maps are comparing apples to oranges. First note they are
only displaying the noise impact of a SINGLE PLANE. In the case of BIGSUR and SERFR they display a mythical AVERAGE plane per FAA data. But for DAVYJ it's something different. FAA provided WORST CASE data for a single plane flying the NOISIEST possible within the realm of projection of a DAVYJ procedure yet to be defined.

So, who's lying? I can't believe Embarcadero Media accepted these drawings without vetting them! They're propaganda and FALSE DECOYS from people with an axe to grind. Please check into it. Ask for the source document on which the drawings are based.... It's not rocket science.

6 people like this
Posted by Net net
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2016 at 12:54 am

Net net is a registered user.


The pictures published are look of Populations impacted by the routes, not noise contours.

3 people like this
Posted by Decibels
a resident of Los Altos
on Oct 23, 2016 at 12:35 pm

Decibels refers to NOISE level. The maps are of NOISE, not population.

10 people like this
Posted by Net Net
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2016 at 1:14 pm

The published pictures show the population under the routes as drawn and modeled by the FAA.

- so all three routes (comparison of Big Sur, SERFR and Davij) are from the same source, not apples and oranges

9 people like this
Posted by BRIXX
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 23, 2016 at 1:31 pm

Note that while everyone is talking about only one route, the southern arrival route to SFO (aka SERFR) that the Los Gatos Mountains activists want moved, no one seems to be paying attention to another route that these activists want moved, the arrival route into San Jose airport. If Los Gatos Mountains get their wish on this, the arrival flight path into San Jose (BRIXX) will be moved north and east to over Mid Peninsula communities.

And then those same activists come and lecture everyone about not moving noise. This is really unbelievable.

Like this comment
Posted by Deja Vu
a resident of Los Altos
on Oct 23, 2016 at 2:39 pm

To quote the caption on one of the 3 pictures accompanying this article
"How things were: Based on FAA data, this map shows the communities that were affected by noise when the Big Sur flight path was in service prior to the rollout of the FAA's NextGen program in 2015. Flights to San Francisco International Airport arrived via the Menlo waypoint. Orange represents the least amount of noise, 35-40 decibels; yellow is at 40-45 decibels and gray is more than 45 decibels. Courtesy of Sky Posse."

Like this comment
Posted by DYAMD
a resident of Los Altos
on Oct 23, 2016 at 2:47 pm

BRIXX is an issue too of course, but it has many fewer planes
per day into SJC than most of the arrival procedures into SFO.
Take this HIGHR proposal. It directly parallels about 250 flights
a day heading into SFO quite apart from SERFR. So Shifting
Serfer to fly the same path as DYAMD is a bad idea. Also into SFO,
SERFR with 170 flights per day BDEGA with 160 flights per day
and then Oceanics with far fewer, say 40 flights per day. The Oceanics
fly over some of the same irritated people in Portola Valley as
does BRIXX, but headed to SFO rather than SJC. These all interact
as well.

Peter is wrong that the length of the Bay isn't being used.
It's being used for DYAMD and this represents half the traffic
headed to SFO. It's impractical to impossible to increase the
traffic on this trajectory. There are only 2 runways that the
planes land on at SFO, and they land 2 at once.

17 people like this
Posted by Jason
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 23, 2016 at 5:48 pm

[Post removed.]

2 people like this
Posted by Net net
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2016 at 6:35 pm

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]

8 people like this
Posted by There's noise, and then there's other things
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 23, 2016 at 9:20 pm

The proponents of these proposals seem quite invested in making them an urgent issue. Yet, everyone I have discussed this concern with reacts with a "really, you have to be kidding, this is something that people in Palo Alto are worried about?" Residents of our fine city are graced with many blessings, privileges, and advantages. There are many problems in the world and some horrible problems in this city (e.g., a cost of living that destroys numerous elements of diversity, stifling traffic) that really forces one to question the time and energy spend on the seemingly minor issue of a recent increase in airplane noise. [Portion removed.]

5 people like this
Posted by BRIXX
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 23, 2016 at 11:08 pm


So, if I understand you well, it is fine to move the "few" San Jose bound planes to above already impacted areas of the Mid-Peninsula, in order for mountain residents, especially in the Los Gatos Mountains, to no longer have any commercial jet noise above them, or next to none, once they have successfully moved SERFR as well. On the other hand, offering relief to the Mid-Peninsula that is slammed with hundreds of SFO bound planes everyday is unacceptable. This sounds to me like a lot of entitlement on the part of Los Gatos Mountains residents to be arguing for this. Never mind that they ask traffic above them to be rerouted while they demand that no one else have any traffic moved.

Furthermore, they ask for BRIXX to now fly above SERFR that until now has been above BRIXX. This would make it even more pressure for SERFR flights to stay low, as if the communities under SERFR (and presumed DAVYJ) were not already severely impacted by airplane noise.

To me, this is all very astounding.

13 people like this
Posted by Net net
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2016 at 8:14 am

Net net is a registered user.

There's noise, then there's other things,

Yes, there is

1. the air we breathe
3. cardiovascular health
4. ability to focus - productivity

and not the least impact on children - google "children, aircraft noise."

You seem to be talking with people who are not bothered, but it is a quality of life issue for thousands, check the maps.

18 people like this
Posted by melissa
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 24, 2016 at 8:23 am

We all choose to live within 20 miles of 3 major international airports, 5 smaller airports and a NASA airbase. I hear them, yeah we all do. How spoiled do we have to be to demand that we should hear no airplanes overhead? How arrogant do we have to be to insist that they be re-routed over poorer neighborhoods? To whoever keeps pushing this, please drop it because it is making our kind city look bad. Thank you.

13 people like this
Posted by Net net
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2016 at 8:36 am

Net net is a registered user.


Nice try,

I would say that you are spoiled to call the quality of life in neighborhoods of Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, and Menlo Park unimportant. And for you not to care about your own neighbors who object to the barrage of planes.

The FAA Administrator is listening to the objections to concentration and low altitudes and willing to give up 20%,

Web Link

If he can do that, you can to. And the burden of the planes from 5 airports should certainly be SHARED. Even better, when you share you can actually disperse and solve the problem. Think different.

12 people like this
Posted by Grew Up Near an Airport
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 24, 2016 at 8:53 am

Thank you, melissa, for expressing my thoughts exactly. I grew up in a major metropolitan city near an international airport. You live with the planes flying overhead. It's no big deal. Wealthy spoiled Palo Altoans whine to their legislators about the planes. Boo hoo! It is ridiculous. It has no impact on quality of life or housing evaluations. It must be nice to throw money around wastefully on an issue like this. Spend your money more wisely - Caltrain safety, our schools, the cost of living and housing availability. I am embarrassed that people continue to push this issue.

12 people like this
Posted by Net net
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2016 at 9:31 am

Net net is a registered user.

melissa, grew up, cheese guy, and more

Zero-sum game society unites

You think that solving this problem is about causing harm to another, but it's not.

Please come and make your case in public on Thursday, 1:00PM Palo Alto City Hall

You obviously care very much and have an interest in not solving this problem and especially not for Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Los Altos Hills, and so forth.

A problem which did not exist until SERFR was launched and now you want the twin replacement blunder with another NAME.

4 people like this
Posted by Sue Allen
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 24, 2016 at 10:18 am

Any chance when this group is done with the FAA that they can tackle the City of Palo Alto and Waste Management so that the very, very noisy trash trucks stop waking me up at 6:45 a.m. every Tuesday morning? They have extremely squeeky brakes that stop in front of every house. Then they beep-beep-beep to back out of the cul-de-sac. WM says they have to do busy streets in the early morning before traffic, but I regularly follow the truck down Alma at 8:30 a.m. and down Middlefield about 10 a.m. I live on a street that is only 2 blocks long and not the least bit busy at any time!

9 people like this
Posted by No more sacrificial noise corridors
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 24, 2016 at 2:01 pm

Changes: you hit the nail on the head!

For those of you who haven't lived here long:
Palo Alto was never the main overland route into SFO until a few months before NextGen dropped the planes into a sacrificial noise corridor over Palo Alto. Historically, San Mateo was the main arrivals route into SFO. Duplicitously, the San Francisco Round Table and SFO had an understanding that they would not move traffic within San Mateo County! Well, since Palo Alto is the northernmost town in Santa Clara County, it was fine to move it onto us. NextGen just brought the sky routes lower, thus much more noise. It is an impossible situation when our Congresswoman sets up a Committee to work on sky routes, with the condition that you can't move noise. Actually, it just confirms my belief that our Congresswoman really doesn't want to do the dirty work and get a System Wide Solution, where no community has to bear the brunt of airplane noise and pollution(at least equitable distribution) which we are exposed to here to in Palo Alto.....or should I say Noisy Alto.

2 people like this
Posted by Noise Increase
a resident of Los Altos
on Oct 24, 2016 at 2:06 pm

The thing is, we are talking about a purposeful noise increase caused by the FAA
for the sole purpose of simplification. The MENLO waypoint had always been
at 4000 feet, but many planes reached it at 5000 for various reasons. They want
to reduce the angle planes fly down onto the runway, and it's simpler to make more
planes hit MENLO at 4000 in that case.

But they don't have to. In fact, their own noise modeling of SERFR shows
less noise in the past than DAVYJ will have, and they attribute that to MENLO being at
4000 (and achieved) now. The planes have to turn to get onto the runway
approach over the bay. They could drop down 500 or 1000 feet from Menlo as they
do that turn, and still make the runway angle.

It's a separate item on the Select Committee's report. All the noise from Sky Posse
assumed the would do this descend on turn on their plan for SERFR-EDDYY. But they
never tried to make the case to raise MENLO 1000 feet and do it on the turn on descend for DAVYJ.

10 people like this
Posted by Tired of Cronyism
a resident of another community
on Oct 24, 2016 at 3:11 pm

Talk, measurements, monitor, document...

Congress unleashed this in 2012, made this 24/7 assault on human health and the environment legal. The majority of politicians have no intention of stopping this abuse. They are captive to industry, in this case, aviation and its dependents. There is nothing safe or efficient about these incessant low altitude flight paths hammering us throughout our country and the rest of the world. It's all about CAPACITY, increasing it to saturation of our skies.

Low altitude is essential to the CAPACITY/profit goals and THE #1 reason for the hellish noise, air and visual pollution we're experiencing. And guess what our elected officials will ensure wins? CAPACITY/PROFIT. This committee is one great big PR stunt. More games on the tax dollar.

Key to FAA NextGen torture is “Wake RECAT” (Wake Turbulence Recategorization). Aircraft create a turbulence wake that limits how close they can fly to each other. The distance can be reduced by flying aircraft at lower altitudes, allowing slower speeds in the denser air, and on a level flight path, because descending/ascending causes a greater wake. This is why there is such push back about angles of landings/departures and alititude.

10 people like this
Posted by Tired of Cronyism
a resident of another community
on Oct 24, 2016 at 3:14 pm

This is what this industry and its dependents are against which is the very thing necessary to protect human health and the environment:

"The Long Beach law sets a sound threshold, imposes a curfew for takeoffs and landings between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., and limits the number of commercial takeoffs to about 50 per day." (Residents critical of plan to add international travel at Long Beach Airport, Press Telegram 10/21/2016, link to article: Web Link) (See also, Federal Aviation Administration Provides Legal Opinion on Feasibility Study, International Flights, LB Post 10/20/2016, link to article: Web Link)

So, Congress got to work for this industry, as it does with every other one, a long time ago (the federal Aircraft Noise Compatibility Act was passed in 1990) to seize local control so the public doesn't interfere with money-making objectives with such silly concerns like noise, air, and visual pollution--such silly things like wanting to sleep, be as healthy as possible and live as long as possible, be indoors or outdoors with a sense of peaceful enjoyment. And the coup de grace work of Congress for this industry, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012--enter NextGen program (low altitude madness), which 9/11 may well have delayed; might not have made people feel too safe to see aircraft so low in our skies back then (Who would ever know now if anything was about to crash?).

Congress and the FAA are essentially acting as administrators for aviation interests. Holding the whip behind them are the aviation interests who, while subsidized to the eyeballs with tax dollars, sue the minute they sniff a restriction placed on their business objectives, sue the minute citizens' rights trump corporations' rights.

The U.S. has nearly 320 million people. How many are in Congress, how many heading these industries? It beggars belief that they get away with this wholesale destruction of human and environmental rights and use tax dollars to foot the bill! And use more tax dollars for their PR stunts and delay tactics!

5 people like this
Posted by Net net
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2016 at 3:26 pm

Net net is a registered user.

Noise increase,

An altitude tweak on 300+ planes transiting the Menlo area (from SFO alone) would have to be pretty substantial to address the problem of persistent plane after plane after plane, concentrating over the same area with no relief.

The noise that Michael Huerta has acknowledge is "concentration" so the solution will need to address that first.

Also planes fly much lower than the stated altitudes so add the buffer for that.

10 people like this
Posted by hiker
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 24, 2016 at 3:55 pm

Two please educate yourself and read the comments by "Tired of Cronyism" and two please give those of us living in southern San Mateo County a break. Neighborhoods near Willow Road and north to Marsh Road are under a jet super highway with 100 planes or more flying over our homes at altitudes below 4000 feet daily. As a forty year resident this is not what I signed up for. This is new and if you think you are safe from this noise think again. Your neighborhood could be next. These planes need to be dispersed as they once were before NextGen was implemented here in 2013/ 2014. Full implementation, more planes, isn't even with us yet...believe that comes five or six years from now.

Like this comment
Posted by KJH
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 24, 2016 at 4:33 pm

KJH is a registered user.

What about us here in Santa Cruz?? We are also affected (not that anyone in Palo Alto would care about that :-)). I don't know the emoji for "tongue in cheek", but I'm sure someone will enlighten us..................

6 people like this
Posted by BRIXX
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 24, 2016 at 5:34 pm

@ hiker

You are right. East Palo Alto and portions of Menlo Park are terribly affected by SFO traffic noise as well. The solutions proposed by Palo Alto would help your area as well. When we say that San Mateo County shifted the noise south, we should say except for your areas. The truth is that what happened is that noise was moved from most of San Mateo County, and especially away from its most affluent areas.


There is a noise issue in Santa Cruz as well, but it may be slightly different in its nature from what I understand. Please bear with us for discussing Palo Alto area issues in a Palo Alto online forum. As I mentioned to hiker, solutions that help Palo Alto will also help his/her area of Menlo Park and East Palo Alto.

19 people like this
Posted by Planes under 2000 ft
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 24, 2016 at 8:59 pm

Planes under 2000 ft is a registered user.

It's so funny to me how people can deny there is a problem. Several planes just went by under 2000 ft. They are so low and loud it's actually scary to hear them. This is the reverse SJC pattern, which they make no attempt to address in the new report. It's terrifying and loud, and very sad that we can't open our windows on cool rainy evenings any more. Maybe that is a small thing to some people, but we didn't move to Palo Alto to live under noise like this.

Oct 24, 20:54:16 AA6048 (LAX:SJC E75L 215k, 1925ft)
Oct 24, 20:52:26 AA 140 (DFW:SJC B738 250k, 1950ft)

Yikes, here comes another. Ah, only at 3400 ft

Oct 24, 20:58:20 HA 44 (HNL:SJC B763 249k, 3409ft)

14 people like this
Posted by BRIXX
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 24, 2016 at 10:56 pm

@ Planes under 2,000 feet

I agree with you. SkyPosse and the City of PA should have included the SJC reverse flow in its list of complaints and of suggested solutions, so that the Select Committee would have to address it. Mountain communities managed to add regular (non reverse) SJC arrivals (the infamous BRIXX route) to the scope of the committee's work. Palo Alto could have tried to do the same thing with reverse SJC arrivals. It is a shame that they did not try it, or did not insist on it.

3 people like this
Posted by George Senn
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Oct 25, 2016 at 11:48 am

"Speaking of Lies", your chosen name is ironic.

Have you even looked at the maps shown above, or the original FAA data? If you had, you'd understand that your comments don't even make sense. The FAA provided noise modeling data for the three routes. What they did not provide was a list of cities and towns overflown, and the population within their noise contours.

This data isn't about a single plane: the FAA studied 60 days (randomly chosen from a 1 year period) worth of actual flight traffic for SERFR and BSUR to generate their noise maps. Then they took the SERFR traffic and modified it to simulate the effects of DAVYJ (i.e. class B modification, OPD, altitude changes) and simulated noise for that.

At the last Select Committee meeting, the FAA confirmed even confirmed the accuracy of the DAVYJ noise map!

Like this comment
Posted by Joe Giraffe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 25, 2016 at 1:30 pm

I don't think DAVYJ will increase noise near the MENLO waypoint.
The first two pics say no change from 2014 to today in the area near MENLO. We who live in that area know that isn't correct -something is wrong with these pics. So, should we believe the third pic? It shows that DAVYJ will increase the noise near MENLO from today. How can that be:
- the same number of planes are involved
- DAVYJ will be at least as high as SERFR, and they both cross MENLO at 4000' so there is no real altitude difference in our area
- DAVYJ will fly the same type of descent pattern as does SERFR.
So why would DAVYJ be noisier here than the current SERFR?

I think the third pic is wrong. In the Oct 13 meeting, the FAA guy essentially said that DAVYJ's noise in the MENLO area will be the same as SERFR's.
Web Link

5 people like this
Posted by Net net
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2016 at 2:13 pm

Net net is a registered user.

Joe Giraffe,

That would be lipstick?

To make a new route "equal" in noise to the one that is causing the problem?

I hope that no more time, literally that no more time is spent on trying to make a SERFR twin, "identical" to what is really bad, and would get worse. That is just so unacceptable - time lost with the FAA not finding other solutions.

Enough is enough.

Like this comment
Posted by Speaking of Lies and Liars
a resident of Los Altos
on Oct 25, 2016 at 3:22 pm

Joe Giraffe made an excellent observation. From the drawings it would look as if SERFR and BIGSUR were equal noisewise. Near MEMLO is not the only place this is clearly so. A lot of this has to do with vectoring.

The biggest effect beyond vectoring and airspace noise has been the change to greater adherence to the MENLO altitude of 4000 feet. BIGSUR generally reached MENLO at 5000. SERFR has been lowering the altitude of the average on-route plane at MENLO toward 4000 feet, which was always the stated goal. That makes a lot more noise all the way along as the planes fly lower as far away as Los Altos Hills to meet that goal.

The problems with the simulation for DAVYJ are that they assume that even MORE planes will reach MENLO at 4000. The FAA said specifically that the cause of apparent added noise was due to MENLO lowering to 4000. This would affect SERFR too if it keeps being used, because it's been happening all along. SERFR will get noisier. So BIGSUR and SERFR show *average* data using the FAA's metric across the day for a mythical average plane. DAVYJ calculates that average plane assuming the worst case of almost all planes reaching MENLO at 4000 feet. That leads to added noise. This is a parameter fed to their simulation and represents reality but has a misleading effect.

An additional problem with the DAVYJ simulation is that they also simulated vectoring. However they only picked FOUR specific vector possibilities and applied them to MULTIPLE planes in their simulation. They explained that noise increases in reality would be more smoothed out across the entire route, because that's how vectoring actually works. Vectoring makes added noise where the planes depart from and return to the main ground track of SERFR or DAVYJ. (Of course, vectoring makes noise away from the main track too!) So once again, this is an artifact of a simulation and of the FAA no wanting to claim lower noise than will actually occur. Err to the high side. Assume all the planes make 4000 at MENLO. If they 'simulated' SERFR with the same parameters, it too would look much noisier! That really has to be done before you can compare.

The solution of course is to raise MENLO to 4500 or 5000. Sky Posse has repeatedly avoided pushing for that because they want to argue for shifting the noise over Mountain View and mislead people that this will lower the noise. But they did add an extra 500 or 1000 feet just out of thin air in the SERFR-EDDYY plan the P.A. consultant cooked up. This is like rock soup. How to make rock soup. Put a rock in a pot. Add soup ingredients. Cook. Remove the rock. Enjoy the soup with no rock. You didn't need the rock.

Raise MENLO to 5000 for the DAVYJ procedure, and the added noise from DAVYJ will go away BECAUSE IT WAS ENTIRELY CAUSED BY LOWERING MENLO from about 4600 (actual SERFR averages) to 4000 (DAVYJ assumption).

3 people like this
Posted by Safety?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2016 at 4:15 pm


So how safe is it to have a highway (hands free flying), computer navigation, with Menlo at 5000?

Because of Asiana, as explained by SF complaints office, planes were made to fly instrument (hands free, not the pilot navigating) and that the safety requirement is 4000 feet for instrument or computer navigation. SERFR is computers navigation and so that would be the same safety req.

Are you actually now going to push the envelope on safety to make a new SERFR?

Going more South (and higher) seems safer, but maybe that would be too much to ask?

18 people like this
Posted by Defocus the Noise
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 25, 2016 at 10:36 pm

The dramatic increase in noise due to the recently implemented NextGen, SFO-approach superhighway is intolerable for those who live under this new superhighway that was created by the FAA without, by their admission, considering the effects of noise on residents. This MUST be corrected!

A major source of this noise is the concentration of traffic created by focusing approach routes on single points such as MENLO. By dispersing the MENLO point into multiple points or even into a continuous or time-sequential sequence of points, say, for example, a line of points extending from Redwood City to Mountain View, the air traffic noise could be significantly reduced to a small fraction of its current level and repetition rate, a potentially acceptable level for all.

Yes, do raise the approach altitudes, do shift more traffic onto the bay, do enforce minimum altitudes, do consider curfews, but also spread the checkpoints so that we have instead of a single noise focusing one lane superhighway, a broad multilane highway. Divide the noise and conquer it for the benefit of all. Focusing the noise over high density population areas is an insane NextGen solution that must be corrected, not ignored, by our elected representatives.

Like this comment
Posted by Safety at Menlo
a resident of Los Altos
on Oct 26, 2016 at 1:37 am

MENLO is not the natural start of the runway approach procedure. What happens is planes head from MENLO to a Waypoint called HEMAN which is then a straight shot to land on runway 28L. But other planes coming from DYAMD or otherwise are already on the approach procedure from further down the Bay. Having the planes turn interrupts the flow into the approach by itself. The more gentle the turn, the better the safety. The planes could descend to reach the runway approach trajectory deemed safer (3 degrees) as they make the turn. The 4000 altitude would be needed without the turn but there IS a turn so MENLO could be at 4500 or 4600 and still allow a safe transition after exiting SERFR and as a way of entering the approach to SFO. HEMAN is at 3100 and there's no way to do this without some sort of a curve. It's not defined what sort of curve should be used from MENLO to HEMAN for this transition, but it could be.

Like this comment
Posted by Safety at Menlo
a resident of Los Altos
on Oct 26, 2016 at 1:42 am

13% of planes on SERFR are vectored at MENLO or thereabouts. Such planes already are told to be at 6000 when they hit MENLO while flying on a vector to reach MENLO. From there they already make a curve and descend into the runway approach procedure. If it's safe for the randomly vectored planes to do this, then it is safe for all of the planes. The safety issue has to do with the angle of the landing trajectory which will still be at 3 degrees. If vectored plans can get to the 3 degree trajectory from 6000 then the others should be able to do this from 5000.

Posted by This is a test
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

on Oct 26, 2016 at 11:02 am

Due to violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are only visible to registered users who are logged in. Use the links at the top of the page to Register or Login.

2 people like this
Posted by Tired of Cronyism
a resident of another community
on Nov 1, 2016 at 4:07 pm

"CULVER CITY TO SUE FAA: Flight Changes Already Impact Residents" (Culver City Observer, October 27, 2016)

Quote from article:

“We invite other jurisdictions that are also impacted to join with us in our efforts, requesting the FAA to recognize that communities around the country are subject to these negative consequences,” he said. “Our hope is the FAA will work with us and other communities to mitigate the serious impacts on our residents’ quality of life from these flight path changes.”
-Culver City Mayor Jim B. Clarke

2 people like this
Posted by Tired of Cronyism
a resident of another community
on Nov 1, 2016 at 4:26 pm

"Newport Beach is suing the FAA over new flight plans, and Culver City is expected to follow" (LA Times, October 27, 2016) article link:
Web Link

Quotes from article:
"Newport Beach’s lawsuit was filed with the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which handles cases against federal agencies. The suit alleges violations of the National Environmental Policy Act."

"Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the FAA in Los Angeles, said the agency does not comment on pending litigation as a matter of policy. He added, however, that the FAA stands by its environmental analysis."

"The Culver City and Newport Beach lawsuits are part of a growing number of legal challenges around the country that dispute the findings of the environmental review for Metroplex. Similar cases are pending in Boston, New York, Phoenix and the Bay Area."

Also, here's the link to the Culver City Observer article mentioned previously:
Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 16, 2016 at 11:41 am

A last-minute plan to shift SFO-inbound noise off of north Palo Alto and onto Mountain View, Los Altos and Sunnyvale was added to the Select Committee on Airplane Noise recommendations to FAA, after the comment period had ended and behind closed doors.

South Palo Alto residents are in for a shock:

The new pain corridor doesn’t just run the entire length of Mountain View and Los Altos. Being several miles wide, it also blankets all homes in South Palo Alto from East Meadow and Mitchell Park to San Antonio Road. In essence, 94301 and 94303 noise moves onto 94306.

A map of the planned route can be viewed at

Residents of all cities injured by this ill-conceived maneuver should complain to the Select Committee on Airplane Noise chaired by Supervisor Joe Simitian, as well as to Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, FAA Administrator Glen Martin and city council members. Demand that proposal 2.5r2 be removed.

As stated in the Committee’s own core principles: “Changes in noise patterns should be avoided, unless the change has no adverse effects, or the change is unavoidable due to safety reasons.”

The right thing to do is pursue best-practices and technical fixes, for example fly much higher over cities and only descend over the Bay. Or retrofit the loud Airbus A320 to eliminate it intense whine, with a simple $5,000 part. See how far these kinds of fixes get us before ever talking about moving pain around.

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


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

All your news. All in one place. Every day.

Anne Le Ziblatt, formerly of Tamarine and Bong Su, is back with a Vietnamese noodle bar in Redwood City
By Elena Kadvany | 7 comments | 3,383 views

Local Pols Debate Climate
By Sherry Listgarten | 11 comments | 2,763 views

Letting Christmas Linger
By Cheryl Bac | 5 comments | 1,449 views

The E.R.A. – no real equality yet. Why not?
By Diana Diamond | 14 comments | 922 views

Truth Matters (and so does good beer)
By Laura Stec | 2 comments | 868 views