Despite the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) insistence that there have been no changes to flight paths that would increase airplane noise in La Jolla before March 2017, residents from Bird Rock to The Shores have been reporting that planes are flying closer to the coast and at a lower altitude — since fall 2016. So when the Airport Noise Advisory Committee (ANAC) sub-committee learned airplane-related noise in La Jolla had been monitored and studied for nearly a year, its La Jolla representative, Chris McCann, demanded details of the report be released.
At the Aug. 16 ANAC meeting at the Portuguese Hall in Point Loma, noise consultant Paul Dunholter presented the study’s purpose, methodology, next steps and more. Its final results will be presented in October.
The perceived increase in noise comes from changes stemming from the FAA’s Metroplex system, which adjusts flight paths to make airspace more efficient.
<FZ,1,0,9>The FAA reports the projected annual savings with Metroplex are: $7.8 million in fuel costs, 2.7 million gallons of fuel, and 23.3 thousand metric tons of carbon.
Reading off a slide, Dunholter said Metroplex was implemented in two phases for San Diego International Airport. The first phase was in November 2016 for Point Loma departures, and the second phase in March 2017 for departure and arrivals procedures for flights near or over Mission Beach and La Jolla. However, noise complaints from La Jolla started to increase in October 2016.
Dunholter said noise monitoring was conducted for a two-week period in fall 2016 for “pre-Metroplex,” and then in spring 2017 for “post-Metroplex” data. “We wanted to document the changes in noise associated with Metroplex, any operational changes that occurred in terms of how the planes are flown, the level planes are in terms of altitude, and characterize those changes,” he explained.
There were three measurement locations listed in La Jolla, but only one is categorized as “long-term measurement” because it obtained two weeks of data before and after Metroplex implementation. The other two only obtained two days’ worth of data after Metroplex implementation.
The long-term site (on the UC San Diego campus at Downwind Way and Shellback Way) was chosen because “it was a secure location and for its proximity to the arrival track and the shoreline,” Dunholter said. Noise was measured from 3 p.m. to midnight for two days after Metroplex was implemented at the two short-term locations: a cul-de-sac at Revelle Drive and north of Calumet Park in Bird Rock.
“The purpose is to evaluate the affect of FAA moving the San Diego International Airport arrival path south over La Jolla de-conflict airspace as part of its implementation of the SoCal Metroplex,” Dunholter said. Other objectives were to determine if there were measurable differences in noise or changes in operations related to the FAA’s Metroplex implementation, and quantify any other noise and flight track changes that may have occurred.
The data would be correlated with radar information from San Diego International Airport. He said another factor being considered is whether the offending planes are from San Diego International Airport or other military, medical or smaller airports.
McCann asked if the study is only looking at loudness or the pitch of the sound. “I can tell you the sound can change dramatically from the front of the plane to the back,” he said, implying the intensity of the noise could vary based on whether a plane is turning, departing or arriving.
But Dunholter said the study was just looking at raw data and the level of noise.
McCann also suggested correlating the data to the complaints generated to determine whether the cause is the size of the plane on that particular path, the altitude, whether it is flying after curfew and other things. When registering a complaint through flighttracker.casper.aero/san residents can categorize the noise as “loud aircraft,” “suspected off-course,” “low flying” and more.
Several ANAC committee members, including McCann, said they were looking forward to the results of the study. But some La Jollans are already questioning the methodology and whether the research will yield accurate data.
Bird Rock resident Gillian Ackland spoke during public comment, and criticized the perceived small pool of data.
“I take issue with the report being given. I have never heard of ‘long term’ being two weeks and ‘short term’ being a few afternoons. If you want real data, you need to be there when the planes start flying over and stay there until they leave. It doesn’t make any sense the way it is now,” she said. “I don’t mind the planes being up there, but when they are that loud and that close to my house, then I have a problem.”
The ANAC group will review the results during its Oct. 18 meeting, the time and location to be announced.
Threats to Authority continue
This summer, the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority began receiving threats and profanity-laden messages. Board chair April Boling said these messages are still being received, and she pleaded with ANAC members to do their part to discourage them.
“Recently, certain members of our staff have been receiving communications that are profane, and in some cases threatening. I’m here to ask if you can’t stop that (by reporting it) when you are on e-mail chains or if you receive these. Let the senders know it is not OK. We have been working with the community and we want to continue this work and be proactive and constructive, and the things our staff have been subjected to are insensitive,” she said. “And it seems to be getting worse.”
While McCann said it is “never appropriate for people to swear,” he said he was curious as to what the Airport Authority thinks is behind this “intensification of emotions on the part of the citizens.”
Boling replied, “It’s impossible to know what is motivating them. People who engage in that are not going to civilly engage. I realize people are frustrated, but there is an appropriate way to handle that.”
However, the 35 minutes of public comment would suggest the source of frustration is the increase in noise, change in noise and residents not feeling heard. Boling was not present during the public comment.
The ANAC subcommittee, initially created as a one-year authority to suggest specific actions to ANAC, will meet in September to draft its final recommendations. The public may attend, but there will be no public comment or participation. A three-hour workshop is set for 4 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 27 at 2722 Truxtun Road in Point Loma.
The full ANAC board will also hear these recommendations at its October meeting. To reach La Jolla’s representative McCann, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org