Aircraft Noise - What is the City Doing? 
The City is aware of the recent increased flight activity over parts of Cupertino from various area airports, including Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC), San Francisco International Airport (SFO), and smaller airports such as Palo Alto (PAO) and San Carlos (SQL). This has impacted some Cupertino neighborhoods near the Sunnyvale border.

The City has no direct authority over airspace and is limited in its ability to address resident aircraft noise concerns. However, the City is committed to preserving and enhancing the quality of neighborhoods by maintaining or reducing the levels of noise generated by transportation facilities, including airports. Based on resident complaints, the City will closely monitor actions by the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and their efforts to reroute specific incoming SQL flights over Sunnyvale and parts of Cupertino.

Cupertino Study Session to discuss Aircraft Noise
The Cupertino City Council held a Study Session on December 6, 2016 at Community Hall to discuss aircraft noise. Several community members expressed their concerns with increased airplane traffic over their neighborhood and resulting noise. Representatives from Congressman Mike Honda’s Office and Council Member Mary Lynne Bernald of Saratoga were in attendance. View the full recording of the meeting and related material here.

Issues Identified
Three separate issues have been identified as contributors to increased air traffic over Sunnyvale, some of which impact parts of Cupertino.

  1. Surf Air. Commuter airline Surf Air received approval from the FAA to test a new route, known as the Bayside Visual Approach, into the San Carlos Airport for six months, from July 5th, 2016 to January 5th, 2017. Unfortunately, the cities impacted were not notified and given an opportunity to comment on the proposed route. This route takes flights toward Moffett Field, over the Bay, and towards San Carlos Airport (SQL). While the main changes to the flight path occur outside of Cupertino’s borders, already existing flight paths over Cupertino may have received more noise due to increased air traffic in July when the number of Surf Air flights into SQL peaked at around 22 flights per day. After July, the number of flights per day decreased to normal levels of about 18-20 flights per day. In August 2016 the Mercury News published an article on the increased noise over Sunnyvale. After January 5th, 2017, the Bayside Visual Approach will not be used until the FAA evaluates the the new approach.
  2. NextGen. NextGen is an encompassing term for the ongoing, wide-ranging transformation of the US national airspace system which has sometimes been described as an evolution from a ground-based system of air traffic control to a satellite-based system of air traffic management. This new system allows for more direct flight paths, increasing traffic flow with a higher concentration of flights within a narrow flight path. As part of the NextGen initiative, nearby airports have adjusted some of their flight paths which may be causing additional air traffic over Cupertino.  For example, flights into SFO transitioned from the 30-year-old BIGSUR/BSR arrival ground track to a new arrival ground track called SERFR that is slightly more eastward than its predecessor and closer to Cupertino. For more information, visit NextGen.
  3. Weather Conditions. Poor weather conditions such as high winds have increased “reverse flow” operations for the Mineta San Jose Airport. During such events, the prevailing winds change directions and incoming flights are rerouted for a southbound approach, which can result in increased air traffic over parts of Cupertino.

Meeting With Congressman Ro Khanna
On January 15th, 2017, Mayor Vaidhyanathan and Cupertino staff met with Congressman Ro Khanna to discuss the aircraft noise concerns of the Cupertino community. After hearing the feedback and requests from residents, Congressman Khanna agreed to support the following efforts:

  • Assist residents with FAA information requests
  • Request Cupertino representation at the Bayside Visual Approach review meeting
  • Form an ad hoc committee to conduct a study on the aircraft noise issue in the Cupertino/Sunnyvale area
On March 22, 2017, Congressman Khanna's district staff coordinated a regional meeting with the cities of Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, and San Jose.  The meeting was an opportunity for local officials to meet Dennis Roberts, the new Regional Administrator for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Western-Pacific Region and begin discussions about concerns with noise levels when SJC is flying in south flow. As the authority to control aircraft in flight and on the ground is vested exclusively in the FAA, the City requested Congressman Khanna’s Office to take the lead on this issue for the district. The Congressman’s office provided a summary of the meeting, including the proposed path forward for addressing this issue.   As a follow up, Congressman Khanna sent a letter to Mr. Roberts on April 18th on behalf of the jurisdictions represented at the meeting requesting that he and his staff:
  • Help develop modified procedures that meet FAA standards to decrease aircraft noise for residential properties under the current SJC south flow procedure route.
  • Participate in a public event where citizens can learn the details of the issue and what is being done about it.

On June 28th, 2017, Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo, Congressman Jimmy Panetta, and Congressman Ro Khanna sent a letter to the Cities Association of Santa Clara County requesting their assistance with establishing a long term forum for aircraft noise concerns in the South Bay.

Proposed Flight Restrictions & Curfews at San Carlos Airport

The County of San Mateo plans to consider noise abatement solutions regarding the San Carlos Airport (SQL) in July.  As part of their efforts, the Board of Supervisors is considering restricting the number of flights in and out of SQL as well as imposing an evening curfew for some aircraft, prohibiting flights between 9pm and 6am.  San Mateo County also requested that the FAA adopt the Bayside Visual Approach (BVA) at SQL for all flight arrivals.  For more information, including the draft ordinance, click here to visit the County of San Mateo's website. Comments regarding the proposed ordinance should be sent to: SQLFlightRestrictions@smcgov.org.

San Mateo County held a community meeting on May 18, 2017 to discuss noise abatement at SQL. The presentation is posted online here.

San Mateo County will be hosting a second Public Information Workshop on Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017 from 6:00PM to 7:30 PM at the Hiller Aviation Museum at 601 Skyway Road in San Carlos. The purpose of the meeting is to provide an update to the community on the progress of the San Carlos Airport's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) funded Part 150 Noise Study.  The Public Information Workshop will be an Open House format. In the event you are unable to attend, all meeting materials and updates will be posted on the following website: http://sancarlosnoise.airportstudy.com.

Next Steps 
At the request of residents, the City created this webpage to keep residents informed of the aircraft noise issue and steps the City is taking such as engaging state legislators and the FAA. Here are some additional next steps for City staff:

  • Assist residents with FAA information request related to flight patterns.
  • Request invitation to Bayside Visual Approach review meeting to discuss Surf Air re-route.

While the City does not have direct authority over air space, please be assured that we will work with regional agencies and federal representatives and authorities to mitigate the impact on our residents.

What Can I Do? 
To aid our efforts, and to better inform discussions with Congressman Ro Khanna and the FAA, we encourage you to voice your concerns with the operating entities directly responsible for the noise/traffic. If aircraft noise is bothering you, the best thing that people can do is to contact the appropriate airport. Providing the airport with as much detail as possible will help with recording an accurate report. The FAA has also coordinated an ombudsman to gather and log complaints for the region. Please include the FAA Aviation Noise Ombudsman when filing complaints.

Federal Aviation Administration,
Aviation Noise Ombudsman, AEE-2
800 Independence Ave. S.W.
Washington, DC 20591
email: 9-AWA-NoiseOmbudsman@faa.gov

Identifying Aircraft
When contacting the appropriate agency, it is best to have some identifying information about the aircraft. All aircraft flying in this area are on radar and can be tracked (click on "View WebTrak"). This site allows you to click on a particular aircraft to see the tail number, current altitude, and speed (Image A) and includes current decibel readings at various noise monitor sites (Image B); a legend is also provided which shows the types of aircraft displayed (Image C).

WebTrak - Norman Y Mineta San Jose Intl Airport
Where to Report?
Airports are responsible for their noise impact on the communities they occupy. These noise impacts include noise from arrivals and departures, as well as noise from aircraft in a flight path within the immediate vicinity of the airport. Most airports have staff that respond to airport noise issues, or you can ask for the airport manager. Airport noise issues and concerns should first be addressed to the appropriate staff at the local airport. Many airports also have their noise abatement information and contact information published on their website. The City encourages residents to express their concerns about aviation-related noise to the appropriate agency as noted below.

San Carlos Airport (SQL)
Main Phone: 650-573-3700
Noise Hotline: 844-266-6266
Noise Complaint Form

San Francisco Intl (SFO)
Main Phone: 800-435-9736 or 650-821-8211
Noise Office: 650-821-5100 M-F, 8-5
Noise Hotline: 650-821-4736
SFO Noise Abatement
Noise Complaint Email
Noise Complaint Form

If you are not sure which airport is the origin or destination of the aircraft you are hearing, call the SFO noise office number. SFO has system capabilities that can determine the origin or destination of all air traffic.

Norman Y Mineta San Jose Intl (SJC)
Main Phone: 408-392-3600
Noise Hotline: 408-452-0707
SJC Noise Abatement
Noise Complaint Email
Noise Complaint Form
Monthly Noise Summary

Palo Alto Airport (PAO)
Noise Hotline: 650-329-2405

Moffett Field
Noise Hotline: 650-386-0666 (recording, please leave message for return call)
Other noise sources at Moffett Field include wind tunnel facilities and the Outdoor Aerodynamic Research Facility. To report wind tunnel noise, or to get more information, call 650-604-4789 (newsroom number).

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Resources
Who To Contact If You're Impacted By Aircraft Noise

Noise and Emissions

San Jose Flight Standards District Office (FSDO)
FSDO Phone: 408-291-7681

San Francisco Airports District Office
District Office Phone: 650-827-7600

Read the FAA Initiative to Address Noise Concerns of Santa Cruz/Santa Clara/San Mateo/San Francisco Counties Feasibility Study, along with the appendices and executive summary.
Read the reformatted version of the FAA Feasibility Study.

Helicopter Noise Impacts
The FAA has implemented the ICAO Chapters 8 and 11 helicopter noise standard (called Stage 3 in the U.S.) as of May 5, 2014. The Stage 3 helicopter noise standard applies to all new helicopter types certified after the implementation date of the rule. It does not affect existing Stage 2 helicopters. As operators retire older helicopters and buy new ones, Stage 2 helicopters will diminish as a percentage of the fleet and Stage 3 helicopters will increase. Since the international standards are already in place and many manufacturers sell worldwide, many existing helicopters in the U.S. fleet may already meet the Stage 3 noise levels, but would need to be re-certified as Stage 3. You should contact the helicopter operator directly for information regarding the helicopter operations you are experiencing.

Additional Information

Select Committee
In August 2015, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution urging the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to address concerns about increased aircraft noise in Santa Clara County as well as requesting more robust community engagement when changing flight paths.

Following this resolution, in April 2016, U.S. Representatives Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18), Sam Farr (CA-20) and Jackie Speier (CA-14) formed the Select Committee on South Bay Arrivals, which has been working with local stakeholders to develop regional solutions to address aircraft noise.

On November 17, 2016 the Select Committee released a 27-page report with recommendations to Congress. The recommendations include:

  • Flying at higher altitudes
  • Flying over locations with fewer people
  • Avoiding noisy flight maneuvers
  • Implementing noise reduction retrofits where possible.

On May 17, 2017, Representatives Speier, Eshoo and Panetta issued a joint press release regarding the status of the FAA Response to these recommendations.  FAA Administrator Michael Huerta has received a draft response and is currently conducting a final review. The FAA will send their completed document to the Department of Transportation (DOT) for final review and authorization. It is unknown how long the DOT will take to authorize the release of the response.

While the City of Cupertino was not included in the Select Committee, we will continue monitoring the response of the FAA and engaging the appropriate authorities to express the concerns of our community.

FAA Rulemaking: SFO Class B Airspace Meetings 
From January 30th, 2017 through February 1st, 2017, the FAA held three informal stakeholder meetings concerning the proposal to modify the "Class B Airspace Area" at SFO. The proposal would allow pilots to make smooth, shallow descents without throttling up, thus decreasing noise. While in some areas the proposed changes would lower landing altitudes, this occurs mostly outside of Cupertino. Overall, it appears that the proposed changes have the potential to result in a mild decrease in noise over the Cupertino area.

FAA Meeting at the National League of Cities Congressional City Conference
Hosted in conjunction with the NLC Congressional City Conference in March 2017, staff from the National Organization to Insure a Sound controlled Environment (NOISE) presented on developments in the FAA’s implementation of NextGen and new techniques and metrics for measuring aviation noise. NOISE is a coalition of locally elected officials and industry stakeholders working cooperatively with local and federal government to find workable solutions to the issue of excessive airport noise. Attendees had the opportunity to engage in a discussion about the organization’s key legislative and policy priorities for 2017. The following resources were provided by NOISE: