La Jollans one step closer to reducing aircraft noise; Local committee rep attends first meeting

The March 15 meeting of the San Diego Airport Noise Advisory Committee (ANAC) subcommittee was the first with a La Jolla representative seated at the table. As his first order of business, Chris McCann of La Jolla Shores Heights, requested that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) be asked if it agreed to influence air traffic patterns during the Farmers Insurance Open, which took place at Torrey Pines Golf Course, Jan. 28-31.

“Many Bird Rock residents said anecdotally, that it seemed quieter the weekend of the golf tournament — basically back to the normal noise level,” he told La Jolla Light. “When one of the folks in our group did an analysis of the data on the Webtrak system (used to track landings and departures), it was very apparent to him that aircraft departing to the north from San Diego International Airport were staying further away from La Jolla Shores than they had previously.”

Meeting facilitator Heidi Gantwerk said the question could be posed to the FAA, but pressed McCann,“What’s your concern?”

McCann replied (followed by an ovation by the Bird Rock residents present at the meeting), “The concern is that if you can make an adjustment to air traffic control to accommodate a golf tournament at Torrey Pines, why couldn’t the FAA make the same accommodations for the citizens and taxpayers in La Jolla?”

The ANAC subcommittee reports to ANAC. Its function is to host expert discussions about airport noise issues that, when relevant, transcend to the parent board. La Jolla residents obtained their first subcommittee representative after a member resigned and the ANAC board made a recommendation that a 92037 resident be added to address the community’s growing concerns.

FAA changes

Since the announced FAA flight-path changes kicked in March 2, Bird Rock residents reported a “slight” and “circumstantial” decrease in airplane noise, but agreed that the problem is still there. “The perspective is that I’m going to be awakened by airplanes at 6:30 a.m. every single morning until I die,” resident Gillian Ackland told the Light.

At the March meeting, FAA reps showed a series of case studies from the planes flying over different San Diego areas in December 2009, 2014 and 2016, and board members noticed a “shift to the right” over time in northbound departures, which could affect the perception of noise from Bird Rock.

Airport Planning & Noise Mitigation program manager Sjohnna Knack showed a case study of the northbound departures since the FAA changes were implemented where a slight shift of the flight paths further offshore could be appreciated.

Alternative realities

ANAC subcommittee members next addressed community concerns that mappings of San Diego International Airport landings and arrivals don’t coincide with people’s experiences on the ground.

“I can’t understand why there’s a discrepancy between what you’re showing us and what we’re experiencing,” said ANAC member Sandra Valone, referring to the slides FAA representative Rob Cook brought to the meeting.

McCann reported he had verified this scenario himself when he tried to find a Southwest plane a Bird Rock neighbor claimed had flown over her house. “I looked at Webtrack 20 minutes past and minus that time, and there was no data anywhere around that time. The odd thing was, if you watched, the noise sensors were getting illuminated as if a ghost airplane was flying out of the airport,” he added.

Knack said the airport is trying to improve its tracking system, and explained that those “ghost airplanes,” at times, are military operations whose information gets filtered out of the feed. “We are working to switch to System Wide Information Management . We’re working to make improvements, but we are also hoping to make improvements on how we receive noise complaints,” she said.

Noise complaints

“I have 1,218 noise complaints in my inbox right now,” Knack reported. “75 percent of them are from the same three people, which I have no problem with, but the concern is that the motive is mostly ‘low plane over my home.’ I can’t do much with that (in terms of case studies or analysis), so what we’re looking to do is create a system much like the 15 other major airports we’re looking at.”

She explained the new noise complaint system will avoid the e-mail complaints and focus on a web-based system where citizens will have to include information such as whether the source of the noise is a landing or departure, a jet or propeller. “It’s not a perfect science, we’re cleaning our data, and the time we spend with the complaints doesn’t leave us the time to do the analysis we want to do,” she concluded.

How to best report an airplane noise complaint:

Airplane noise complaints can be submitted via, (click on ‘Submit Noise Concern’), sending an e-mail to or calling (619) 400-2799 (English), (619) 400-2797 (Spanish).

In your e-mail or call, include the following information to maximize the complaint potential: Name and last name, address, disturbance time, aircraft type (jet, propeller or other), operation type (arrival or departure), flight number (if known), pictures (if taken).