Aircraft Noise

Councilmembers Lewis and Lempres are assigned as the City Council representatives facilitating and assisting with neighborhood meetings in reaction to an increase in aircraft noise caused by the flight path of aircraft by Surf Air.

The neighbors noticed an increase in noise over areas of Atherton, Redwood City, Menlo Park and Palo Alto. The increased noise is mostly the result of new flights from a startup company called Surf Air that initiated operations into and out of San Carlos Airport in 2013. Surf Air has been working with the community via a Working Group to address the issue. Surf Air continues with plans to expand its services out of San Carlos Airport.

Pilatus Plane

Residents initiated a petition through to assist with the gathering of signatures in opposition to the issue. The Working Group, including members of the community and the Council met with representatives from Surf Air, San Carlos Airport, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA encouraged a formal request for a "new plane approach" to address the noise issue. The representative advised that it would be helpful to include participants from the neighboring affected jurisdictions.

The Town assisted with a decibel reading @ 20 Holbrook Lane in Atherton. The ambient noise registered 48.5-51.5 decibels. The plane passed over at approximately 1,500 feet at 7:32 am with a decibel measure of 68-72 decibels. The Town's noise ordinance has a maximum sound level limit of 60 decibels at that time. However, recognizing that aircraft and any associated issues thereto are federally regulated, the noise ordinance provides that for aircraft, "…it shall be the policy of the town to work with nearby communities and other interested agencies to bring about a reduction of noise levels by private, military, public and commercial airplanes and helicopters."

The Town hosted a Community Meeting to gather input on the history, the impacts, the process, and expectations. Representatives from San Carlos Airport, the FAA, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, the County, and Redwood City were present. More than 100 area residents were in attendance with more than 20 speaking on their concerns as well as feedback on expectations for change. One of the commitments made by Surf Air is to institute a visual approach, weather and conditions permitting, that will allow more flexibility in approach paths as well as a mantra to "never fly over the same house more than twice in one day."

Strategic outcomes from the meeting included:

  • a commitment to continue Working Group meetings;
  • continue working with the FAA to review alternative IFR approach paths;
  • follow-up on a formal request to the FAA for one or more published VFR approach paths; and
  • work with local communities and local governments to continue to address concerns.

The Town continues to work on these issues. The FAA has agreed to implement a six-month trial route that directs aircraft to descend via a visual approach. The next community meeting is scheduled for -

6 pm - Tuesday, August 16, 2016
Jennings Pavilion 

Holbrook-Palmer Park 

History of Available Handouts and Materials