FAA flight-path changes kick in March 2, La Jollan will get seat on noise subcommitee

The expected changes in flight paths and air traffic operations included in the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Southern California Metroplex Project for the San Diego International Airport go into effect Thursday, March 2.

Metroplex is a comprehensive plan implemented across the country that replaces outdated air routes using satellite technology, and in Southern California, it will separate certain flight paths that occurred in the same air space.

The March 2 changes that may affect La Jolla include the replacement of departure route “LNSAY” with “ECCHO.” Aircraft going north will turn on a satellite point, instead of a physical beacon as has been done so far. This route is the one allegedly affecting Bird Rock residents, who’ve complained that they can hear departing planes turning north closer to the coast than they did in the past.

For the arrivals route that goes over La Jolla Shores, the landing route “COMIX STAR” replaces the current “BAYVU STAR.” The air path will remain largely the same, but the difference will be in the way aircraft perform the descent. Traditionally, pilots descend and then use their engines to level off, and repeat. The new satellite technology will allow planes to “idle down” in their approaches, saving fuel, reducing CO2 emissions and lowering landing noises.

The FAA has repeatedly stated that the project, whose execution started in November 2016, had not implemented changes that could affect La Jolla residents. However, the Airport Authority has received scores of complaints from La Jollans, which started in fall 2016, that allege they’ve been experiencing aircraft noise levels unknown to the area before.

The FAA said in a statement that not all aircraft will fly the new routes as soon as they are implemented. “Controllers will still have to occasionally direct aircraft off the routes for weather, safety and sequencing. Also, some aircraft are still not equipped to fly the routes, and some pilots are not qualified to fly the routes,” wrote public affairs manager Ian Gregor in a statement.

The FAA maintains that the changes are not likely to affect communities that weren’t previously impacted. “Throughout the SoCal Metroplex Project area, the vast majority of new routes will have aircraft flying within the areas where they previously flew,” it stated.

During a workshop Feb. 2 at Solana Vista Elementary, FAA personnel told La Jolla residents that the March 2 changes will likely alleviate the flight path nuisances that affect them. However, a document drafted by the residents alleges that their initial review shows the changes may both help and hurt the sound situation in La Jolla. “There will be a 6-month evaluation period for these Metroplex changes. During that period, problems — which should include noise issues — will be uncovered,” the document states.

La Jolla representation

During the Feb. 15 Airport Noise Advisory Committee (ANAC) meeting, a seat opened for a La Jolla representative to sit on the ANAC Subcommittee. (La Jolla doesn’t currently have direct representation on this subcommittee).

An application for the seat was made available to the public on the airport website, and the decision as to who that new member will be, will be reached before March 10 so new rep can attend the March 15 ANAC Subcommittee meeting.

La Jolla Shores Heights resident Chris McCann volunteered to put his 30 years of experience as a pilot to work serving La Jollans as their representative. “There has been an unprecedented increase in the number of noise complaints from people in La Jolla, in particular from Bird Rock, yet we lack a designated point of contact through which to have these concerns addressed by the Airport Authority,” he told La Jolla Light.

Upcoming meetings

The Airport Authority Board meets 9 a.m. Thursday, March 2 at San Diego International Airport Administration Building, Third Floor, 3225 N. Harbor Drive. san.org/Airport-Authority/Meetings-Agendas/ANAC

The ANAC Subcommittee meets (time TBA) Wednesday, March 15 at San Diego International Airport Administration Building, Third Floor, 3225 N. Harbor Drive. san.org/Airport-Authority/Meetings-Agendas under “ANAC Subcommittee.”

How to file an airplane noise complaint

  • Visit webtrak5.bksv.com/san and wait 30 minutes for the system to register the passing flight. Click on the aircraft and then on “report aircraft.”
  • Send an e-mail to airnoise@san.org or call (619) 400-2799 (English), (619) 400-2797 (Spanish).
  • Information required for complaint: Name and last name, address, disturbance time, aircraft type (jet, propeller or other), operation type (arrival or departure) and flight number (if known).
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