The FAA responds, or does it?

After hearing all of our concerns on the new FAA NEXTGEN SERFR1 route, and at the request of Representatives Farr, Eshoo and Speier, the FAA details an initiative to address noise concerns of Santa Cruz/Santa Clara/San Mateo/San Francisco Counties.

The following document was released by the office of The Honorable Anna Eshoo:
We cached a copy here.


A quick analysis of the document reveals no references to commitment or timeline. At first glance, the document appears to be the Executive Summary of a more detailed document. In this case, the Executive Summary also appears to omit insignia(s) or signature(s).

If these assumptions are correct, maybe it is possible to obtain an unabridged version of this document from the office of Representative Eshoo, since this version was released from that source?

The Portola Valley lawsuit

The Portola Valley lawsuit against the FAA’s 32 new flight paths in NorCal needs financial help

The Opening Brief of the Portola Valley suit finds many faults with the process by which the FAA conducted the Environmental Assessment and came to its decision; The FAA’s presentation of that process can be found here.

An introduction and summarized reasoning for the Portola Valley Lawsuit can be found here.

A summary of the faults from page 2 of the Opening Brief:

“In concluding that NorCal OAPM had no significant noise impact on Petitioners’ communities, the FAA flouted both of these criteria – it did not determine how many aircraft would use the new routes and it did not determine over which communities the additional aircraft would fly. The FAA’s FONSI was thus arbitrary and capricious and resulted from a flawed and unlawful process. This Court should set it aside for the following four reasons. First, the entire process by which the FAA purported to measure the anticipated noise impacts of NorCal OAPM was tainted from the outset because the FAA unlawfully predetermined that no significant noise impacts would occur before the FAA performed its analysis of the anticipated noise impacts, and then committed itself to an implementation timeline for NorCal OAPM that required it to later confirm this preordained conclusion. Second, the record indicates that at the time ATAC measured the anticipated noise effects on the ground of NorCal OAPM, ATAC did not actually know where aircraft were expected to fly after the implementation of NorCal OAPM. ATAC’s noise calculations were therefore based on unreliable data and guesswork as to where planes would actually fly under NorCal OAPM. Third, in measuring the anticipated noise impacts of NorCal OAPM, the FAA improperly inflated the amount of noise that would be anticipated if NorCal OAPM were not implemented, and then used this inflated noise baseline when measuring the relative amount of additional noise that would be created by implementation of NorCal OAPM. This use of an inflated noise baseline for comparison purposes artificially understated the impact of noise caused by NorCal OAPM, thus rendering the FAA’s conclusions regarding the amount of additional noise created by NorCal OAPM unreliable. Finally, the FAA failed to analyze and consider the cumulative noise impacts of NorCal OAPM when considered in conjunction with other activities outside of NorCal OAPM that are expected independently to increase aircraft noise around SFO over the next several years, despite express authority from this Circuit requiring the FAA to do so.”

If you want to learn much more about the suit, please refer to the Petition for Review here and the Opening Brief FAA-FONSI-Opening-Brief-signed1
 The Petition for Review includes the finding of no significant impact by the FAA for the 32 new flight paths in Northern California.

The suit was initially financed with $25K by an angel donor. The petitioners need $10K between now and July 30, $15K for Aug 1 through mid-Sep, and about $10K for the hearing in mid-Oct.

Mr. Christopher writes: Parties interested in supporting the Portola Valley suit can send a check to:

The Law Offices of Thomas V. Christopher
The Bank of America Center
555 California Street, suite 4925
San Francisco, CA 94104


The check should be made out to “The Law Offices of Thomas V. Christopher”, and in the memo section put ‘For Lyons et. al. v. FAA.’

100% of your donation goes to this lawsuit.


The Santa Cruz FAA Meeting at Loma Prieta

The LATEST update on this meeting:
On 7/31/2015, the Save Our Skies Santa Cruz executive committee released their summary of the meeting. Review the PDF here.

UPDATE 10p pacific:
What happened?

Most people who attended the Loma Prieta meeting, agreed the FAA listened.

It was flatly stated that the reason the meeting happened at all, was because of Congressman Sam Farr.
That pressure is unwanted and the FAA wants it to stop. They are willing to continue dialog via e-mail, as long as it is limited and viewed as productive.

The FAA committed to fast-tracking any changes (6 months, instead of 2 years) and will review why things aren’t working. Our neighbors were able to document several issues regarding the performance of the route: Violations of airspeed limits and issues related to adjacent SFO Class-B airspace were discussed.

The FAA also stated (and we know this) that the closer you get to the airport, the more routes become interdependent and in conflict with each other. Therefore, the harder things become to change. The FAA also stated that any “Federal Action” on the Northern California Metroplex is closed. Thus, significant changes will be new Federal Actions.

1. The SERFR1 arrival procedure is not working as it should and will be reviewed for possible modification. Fanning out planes on descent was stated to be a possible mitigation to the well documented intensity.

2. SERFR1 alignment on ANJEE may be possible but problematic. When first presented to the public by the FAA it was clearly stated the route should transition thru ANJEE and that the design was incomplete.

3. Altitudes for planes crossing BRIX could be raised if constraints were be added to SERFR1.

4. The FAA clearly resisted PORTE departure changes. Glen Martin clearly stated that he cannot design an efficient transportation system with lots of restrictions on departures. We believe this is touted as one of the ways that NextGen saves fuel by getting departures pointed at their destinations sooner. On a side-note, this is a big sticking point in Phoenix.

It was pointed out that if the PORTE fan out was moved slightly further out, the crossing altitudes could be increased. The cost of that should be considered against that of property owners on the ground.

During the meeting, it was made clear reduced fuel cost is being traded for larger noise impact areas and inescapably reduced property values and (your) quality of life.

We believe there was some acknowledgment that this balance/trade-off could be considered in route designs, but because there is no policy guidance on this issue – it is not a consideration for the FAA when noise levels are below the official noise impact thresholds that are only relevant in the immediate area of the airport (65DNL).

This is something for Congresswoman Eshoo and Congressman Farr to consider – how to codify such lack of balance.

Click below to review additional media coverage:



UPDATE 7:39p pacific
According to the Sentinel:

Meanwhile, at Loma Prieta Elementary School on Summit Road, representatives from the FAA met with leaders from the neighborhood group Save Our Skies Santa Cruz and local elected officials and their aides in a private meeting. Neither the public nor the press were allowed to attend the meeting. From the FAA, regional manager Glen Martin and his assistant Steve May, vice president of Mission Control Elizabeth Ray and FAA spokesman Ian Gregor attended the meeting.

“We found the FAA much more responsive than we thought they might be,” said Patrick Meyer, co-founder of Save Our Skies. “They listened to our concerns and talked about a timeline in terms of getting back to us on a number of things.”

Regarding the speed breaks, the FAA said that’s something it could start working on now. As for raising the altitude of descending planes, the FAA said it would get back to Save Our Skies in about six months.

The FAA also expressed interest in a future public meeting.

“The meeting was productive. It’s a good first step,” said Alec Arago, district director for Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel. “I think the congressman feels this is the dialogue that should have preceded the decision to move the route.”

Find the link to the article here:


Update 3:00p pacific
The meeting is underway and we anticipate today’s first meeting with the FAA to center on:

1. Explaining our perceived impact in Santa Cruz, and
2. Exploring process issues which have been identified
3. And, of course, the next steps.

One of our most competent neighbors is attending the discussion. We feel confident the most important issues will be brought forward clearly.

If the FAA has learned anything, they could leave us with something practical before they manage a better, sustainable implementation!

We are not an acoustical open sewer for the FAA and Administrator Huerta, as one of our neighbors put it.

More to come.