News

Airplane noise irks residents


Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Local residents have turned to U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo to protest Federal Aviation Administration regulations that enable planes to fly at lower altitudes over metropolitan areas – including Los Altos – generating increased noise pollution.

Voicing the concerns of residents throughout the Bay Area – including those in Los Altos – over noise from airplanes flying low overhead, U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-18th District) recently released a survey she plans to use in meetings with the Federal Aviation Administration to quiet the skies.

Noise complaints have increased significantly since spring, when San Francisco and Mineta San Jose international airports adopted new flight paths mandated by the FAA as part of an ongoing national program, NextGen. The program is designed to modernize airspace and accommodate increased demand. The regulations established tighter flight paths that save airlines fuel but require that planes fly at lower altitudes over metropolitan areas, such as Los Altos, that previously experienced little airplane noise.

Many area residents don’t like the new regulations. Some said they have difficulties enjoying the quiet of their backyards or working from home – or even a good night’s sleep – due to the almost constant sound of flights overhead. Local residents have alleged that SFO is no longer upholding a voluntary restriction on late-night flights it has honored for decades.

“If you’re inside a house buried two to three rooms in with double-paned windows, you won’t notice it,” said Los Altos resident Roger Heyder. “It went from almost nothing to flights barreling overhead all the time.”

As of last week, Eshoo’s survey received more than 2,000 responses from around the Bay Area, according to the congresswoman’s office.

Eshoo recently convened a meeting between four FAA officials and 30 Palo Alto residents to discuss noise pollution problems, a frequent topic at Palo Alto City Council meetings. She encouraged members of the community to document their experiences with aircraft noise in her survey as well as with the SFO Noise Abatement Office so that they become part of their official record.

A host of local groups and websites have sprung up in response to aircraft noise, including Save Our Skies in Santa Cruz and Sky Posse in Palo Alto.

A Palo Alto City Council committee in February unanimously recommended allocating up to $30,000 to conduct a study on aircraft noise and propose alternative flight paths. The topic has not made it to a Los Altos City Council agenda and, according to Los Altos City Clerk Jon Maginot, the council has no plans to discuss it.

NextGen has faced consternation and criticism since mid-2012, when airports began changing their flight paths in accordance with it. Residents of nearby Woodside and those in Phoenix, Ariz., have sued the FAA over noise pollution.

To contact the SFO Noise Abatement Office, call 821-4736 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The website reports that due to an unusually high volume of complaints, responses will be delayed.

To access Eshoo’s survey, visit bit.ly/1M6UV2M.

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