Jet Noise Update - Regional Solutions Needed!

At the last technical meeting of the Select Committee (SC) on South Bay Arrivals, the FAA presented a “notional” new route which would move the SERFR ground track west, to the pre-NextGen Big Sur (BSR) route. This theoretic route was named DAVYJ so not to be confused with the prior BSR, because only the ground track is the same.

Instead of a return to the previous BSR’s higher altitudes over North Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Palo Alto (NLA/LAH/PA), the proposed DAVYJ route is projected to retain a maximum altitude similar to the current SERFR route, with a minimum altitude floor which is lower than SERFR. SERFR lowered the altitudes from the previous BSR level, and DAVYJ threatens to lower them even more. (See Figure 1)

The FAA’s noise modeling shows the shift from SERFR to DAVYJ will further increase noise within Los Altos Hills, North Los Altos, Palo Alto, and Menlo Park above the already increased noise from SERFR. (See Figure 2, presented by the FAA at the last technical meeting.) Areas within NLA/LAH/PA are predicted to experience a 2-4 dB increase in DNL (Day-Night Level), the FAA’s preferred noise metric. A 3dB increase in DNL is equivalent to a doubling of sound intensity.

The FAA’s DAVYJ proposal would lower “Class B airspace”, allowing commercial aircraft to fly lower and, avoid conflicts with general aviation aircraft. This proposed change would also increase the ability of commercial aircraft to perform more, noisy low-altitude maneuvering (“vectoring”). It also displaces general aviation traffic, causing them to fly even lower. The FAA’s proposed Class B modifications are a further lowering of our skies. The solution is not to lower altitudes. Raise the altitudes and Class B containment won’t be an issue.

BSR altitudes should be where we set the bar, not SERFR and certainly not lower than SERFR.

SERFR was designed to fly an “Optimized Profile Descent” (OPD). The FAA has pointed out, OPD cannot be flown in congested airspace. The FAA says that our airspace is among the most congested in the country. Due to congestion, OPD is achieved only 25% of the time on SERFR. DAVYJ will be affected by the same congested airspace so we anticipate similar results. In addition, the FAA has stated OPD is not noise free. Large aircraft move a lot of air and that alone makes a lot of noise, especially when they are closer to the ground.

Increased traffic and concentration is a huge part of NLA/LAH/PA’s noise. The FAA noise modeling does not take this into account. Flights that used to arrive to SFO via other routes pre NextGen have been rerouted in to SERFR. (See Figures 3, 4) Flights that were dispersed over a wider area are now condensed in the narrow SERFR corridor. Flights that used to come down from the north on BDEGA East over the bay are now coming down over the Peninsula on BDEGA West then circling back up to SFO. The FAA’s DAVYJ proposal offers nothing to address the noise caused by this shifting of air traffic.

At the last SC hearing, Glen Martin of the FAA gave clarity to Time Based Flow Management, TBFM. Mr. Martin acknowledged that yes, they have the capability to put even more planes onto these corridors--and this could be implemented within two years. Picture non-stop planes one after another. Thank you to SC alternate, Atherton Mayor Elizabeth Lewis, who calmly stated, “That is unacceptable”.

Let’s be clear. Our skies were not unsafe before. The lowered altitudes and shallower descent angles are meant to maximize airport efficiency without regard to the additional impact imposed on people living under these NextGen-enabled highways in the sky.

We must tell the FAA a big fat no to sacrificial noise corridors. We do not accept the additional burden of this traffic. The FAA must employ dispersion and put the health and welfare of people on the ground above airline efficiency. Sacrificial noise/air pollution corridors, over any community, anywhere in this country is an unconscionable practice.

Solutions that make winners and losers are not solutions. In all the dickering about where to place the ground track, perhaps we’ve missed the forest for the tree. Solutions are available that can remediate the noise for everyone now and they don’t include a dump of noise on other communities. We support the points raised by San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine and Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian: If the FAA is designing a new route, shouldn't we find the best place to put it to reduce noise for everyone? Even better, shouldn't we address the concentration of aircraft noise by using multiple arrival routes simultaneously?

When the current SC process concludes, there must be a political body to address airport noise which represents all cities in Santa Clara and Santa Cruz Counties affected by SFO and SJC airplane noise, supported by an ongoing Technical Working Group, to insist the airports and the FAA prioritize noise reduction. We need a watch dog.

In summary:

  • DAVYJ at best, settles for SERFR altitudes with potential for even lower altitudes.

  • DAVYJ will further increase noise within NLA/LAH/PA, according to the FAA.

  • Raise the sky! Do not accommodate lower altitudes through lowering of Class B airspace.

  • Noise relief is a winning combination of OPD in decongested airspace with higher altitudes.

  • Rebalance BDEGA west (over land) and east (over Bay).

  • The resources and 18-24 months of time to design DAVYJ would be better served with focus on solutions that bring relief to all three counties: Increased altitudes. Dispersion of air traffic. Maximum use of over the Bay approaches. We would welcome FAA ideas too!

  • Keep using Our elected officials still rely on these documented complaints.

The next SC technical hearing is tomorrow Thursday, September 1st, 1-4 at Palo Alto City Hall. If you plan to attend, please arrive early to allow time to find parking.

The Select Committee needs to hear from people who are opposed to this change, and want to see real regional solutions that reduce noise for everyone!

Here are the email addresses for the Select Committee members and their alternates. You can cut and paste the email addresses into the To: field of your email.



Figure 1: FAA-provided data comparing BSR, SERFR, and potential DAVYJ altitude ranges. Los Altos and Los Altos Hills are ~8 miles from the Menlo Waypoint. The data show that DAVYJ altitudes will be lower than BSR and could even be lower than SERFR.

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Figure 2: The FAA's noise modeling of the proposed DAVYJ route shows a further noise increase (worse than today) for Los Altos Hills, North Los Altos, Palo Alto, and Menlo Park.

Figure 3: Since the rollout of NextGen, more planes have been put onto the SERFR route than were on BSR.

Figure 4: At the same time that NLA/LAH/PA are facing more flights on the SERFR route, there has been a corresponding decrease in the number of flights that arrive over the full length of the Bay.