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Aircraft Noise

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Constituents from across the 18th Congressional District are being subjected to excessive aircraft noise caused by aircraft travelling to and from three major airports and several smaller airfields in our region. Throughout her tenure in Congress, Congresswoman Eshoo has worked collaboratively with constituents, local elected officials, airports, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to address noise concerns.

Congresswoman Eshoo encourages her constituents to report any excessive aircraft noise complaints to the SFO, SJC and OAK Noise Abatement Offices to ensure that your report is officially documented. The SFO Noise Abatement Office can be reached at (650) 821-4736, or via email at sfo.noise@flysfo.com. You can file an online complaint to the SJC Noise Abatement Office here. You can file a complaint to the OAK Noise Abatement Office here, or by calling (510) 563-6463.

Contact information for the Select Committee on South Bay Arrivals is available here. Public meetings of the Select Committee were held in Santa Cruz County, San Mateo County, and Santa Clara County in 2016.

FAA NextGen Program

The FAA is currently implementing the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), a multi-billion dollar modernization of the nation’s airspace. The NextGen program seeks to make our national airspace safer and more efficient, primarily by converting ground-based radar systems to satellite-based navigation and aircraft tracking. NextGen was initiated by legislation in 2003 and is targeted for full implementation by 2025. For the Northern California region, the FAA projects that NextGen will save $6.5 million in fuel costs and 23,000 metric tons of carbon emissions each year.

One of the major initiatives of NextGen is a redesign of the flight paths in many major metropolitan areas across the country, including the San Francisco Bay Area. Over the last three years, the FAA has been shifting to its newly-designed flight paths in our region, and in the process, has subjected many constituents of the 18th Congressional District to unacceptable levels of aircraft noise.

Local Solutions/Select Committee

In 2000, Congresswoman Eshoo brokered an agreement between the FAA, SFO, and local officials and community leaders to ensure that flights passing over mid-Peninsula cities would remain above 5,000 feet until they reached the Bay. This agreement was not always followed and has been overtaken by new flight paths.

More recently, as the FAA has implemented its NextGen program, Congresswoman Eshoo has advocated for more community outreach by the FAA and a reexamination of the altitude issue. Congresswoman Eshoo has written to the FAA on multiple occasions and she met with FAA Administrator Michael Huerta in person regarding the troubling increase in airplane noise across the 18th Congressional District. In response, the FAA issued an Initiative to Address Northern California Noise Concerns, based on issues raised by residents of the Bay Area.

In 2016, Congresswoman Eshoo joined with Reps. Speier and Farr to announce the formation of a new Select Committee on South Bay Arrivals to accept public input, review FAA proposals, and make recommendations on aircraft noise issues identified in the FAA’s Initiative with a focus on arrival issues that primarily impact the South Bay Region. The Select Committee was comprised of 12 local elected officials and held devoted countless hours to public hearings, technical briefings and document review. The process was transparent, thorough and deliberative and the Select Committee released its final recommendations in December of 2016. These recommendations are currently under review by the FAA for feasibility.

Quiet Skies Caucus

Congresswoman Eshoo is a founding member of the Congressional Quiet Skies Caucus, a group composed of House Members from across the country who work collaboratively to address aircraft noise problems affecting their constituents.

In September of 2014, Members of the Quiet Skies Caucus wrote to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, requesting that the FAA change the standard by which it determines an “acceptable” level of noise pollution. The FAA currently uses a 65 decibel Day-Night Average Sound Level (DNL), which was instituted in 1976 and has not been updated since.

Eshoo and her colleagues in the Quiet Skies Caucus are also pushing for reforms to the FAA’s treatment of aircraft noise in the upcoming reauthorization of the agency. The funding authorization for the FAA expires on September 30, 2017, and it must be reauthorized by legislation before that date for the agency to continue operations. The Quiet Skies Caucus has called on the House Transportation Committee to include several important reforms in the FAA reauthorization bill, including:

  1. Mandating a robust community engagement process, including public hearings before flight paths are changed;
  2. Requiring the FAA to use other measures of noise than the DNL, which is currently used but does not capture the true levels of noise experienced on the ground, and to lower the acceptable level from 65 DNL to 55 DNL;
  3. Clarifying that airports can implement noise mitigation measures in communities not experiencing noise levels above the FAA’s “acceptable” level of noise of 65 DNL;
  4. Mandating independent research on the health impacts of aviation noise; and
  5. Removing the exemption from adequate environmental reviews for flight path changes undertaken in the NextGen process.

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