Noise complaints soar, but don't blame Shoreline

Publication Date: Wednesday Sep 20, 1995

SOUTH PALO ALTO: Noise complaints soar, but don't blame Shoreline

Tests on NASA jet create early morning noise problem for some residents

NASA's tests on a new jet engine are generating complaints from people living in the southern part of Palo Alto who say the noise from the jet is "loud and obnoxious."

Most testing is carried out during the morning hours between 7 and 9:30 a.m. Testing can occur on any day from Monday through Saturday.

"I've heard the noise from Shoreline Amphitheater and I never thought that those were bothersome enough to call and complain about. But these were much louder," said Richard Staehnke, a South Palo Alto resident who called police to complain about the noise.

Staehnke said he had not complained the first time he heard the noise because he thought it would be a one-time event. Testing is scheduled to go on for another month.

The apparent culprit is a unique aircraft, which now hangs from a large crane at NASA Ames Research Center while it is being developed. The aircraft is being designed to fly faster than the speed of sound but to take off and land vertically like a helicopter.

The aircraft needs to be tested outside, which accounts for the large amount of complaints from the community, said Larry Olson, chief of the low-speed aerodynamics branch at NASA.

"They have to test it in the morning when the air is still, and it's pretty noisy," said John Bush, communications coordinator of the Palo Alto Police Department.

Since it is not in Palo Alto's jurisdiction there is nothing the Palo Alto Police Department can do except record the complaints that come in. "One day we'll hear it. The next day we won't," Bush said.

NASA logged the most complaints on Thursday, Sept. 7.

"I personally talked to more than 50 people that day," said Michael Marlaire, chief of external affairs at NASA Ames Research Center. Marlaire said about 95 percent of the complaints came from Palo Alto.

On that morning the tests went until 10:30 a.m., an hour past the time NASA had said they would stop, said Jim Lewis, a Palo Alto resident who is known for his interest in keeping noise levels, particularly those at Shoreline Amphitheatre, down.

However, there are signs that NASA is heeding neighbors' complaints. NASA engineers are researching ways to reduce the noise level.

"We've got quite a few different things we are doing," Olson said. "We are working with the National Weather Service. We are making measurements in the community to try to determine when temperature inversion is going to happen. Until we identify what the inversion problems are, we will not start testing before 8 a.m.," he said.

In order to respond to complaints, officials at NASA Ames have set up a special phone line: (415) 604-2000.

"We need to know where the complaints are coming from so we know where the noise is at," Olson said.

--Atoosa Savarnejad
@jumphead:Noise complaints 

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