The City is monitoring the increased flights over Sunnyvale and resulting disproportionate impact to our neighborhoods from various area airports, including Moffett Airfield, Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC), San Francisco International Airport (SFO), and smaller airports such as Palo Alto (PAO) and San Carlos (SQL).
The City does not have direct authority over air space. We are, however, working with regional agencies and federal representatives and authorities to mitigate the effect on our residents. The authority to control aircraft in flight and on the ground is vested exclusively with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
If aircraft noise is bothering you, the best thing that you can do is to contact the appropriate airport to report airplane noise. You can also contact the FAA Aviation Noise Ombudsman.
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To get summaries and updates on Airplane Noise, along with a variety of other Sunnyvale projects, visit Sunnyvale Project Summaries.
Sunnyvale City Council directed staff to explore the possibility of installing airplane noise sound monitors. The City will be issuing a Request for Proposals in the coming months and through that process, we anticipate using consulting services on how to properly locate and maintain noise monitoring equipment.
Authorized by the San Jose City Council on Oct. 3, 2017, the Committee was established to explore possible solutions to address the noise impacts on residents when weather conditions over the airfield require SJC to operate in a “south flow” configuration. In recent years, there has been a significant increase in noise complaints about south flow operations. The Committee sunset in 2018.
To view meeting agendas and minutes, visit the Ad Hoc Advisory Committee website.
To view the full report, visit the Response to Recommendations from the SJC Ad Hoc Advisory Committee on South Flow Arrivals (May 2019).
On Feb. 14, 2019, the City received the FAA Interim Response to the Ad Hoc Advisory Committee on South Flow Arrivals. Below is an excerpt from the response:
This is intended to be a high-level interim response that provides the FAA's current efforts regarding the May 2018 "Report of the Ad Hoc Advisory Committee on South Flow Arrivals." In a future detailed response, the FAA intends to provide full and complete information about the FAA’s processes, procedures and timeframes. Even if there is no legal requirement to do so, the FAA remains willing to address community noise concerns, if operationally possible. The FAA undertakes its community outreach efforts and considers potential adjustments to address community concerns.
The Select Committee is comprised of 12 local elected officials and built on the previous work of local stakeholders to develop regional solutions to address aircraft noise.
Approved Report of the Select Committee on South Bay Arrivals - November 17, 2016
Select Committee Appointees Gary Waldeck (Mayor, Los Altos Hills) and Mary-Lynne Bernald (Vice Mayor, Saratoga) presented to the Cities Association of Santa Clara County on February 9, 2017 with the Report of Final Recommendation to Address Air Flight Noise.
Sunnyvale City Council voted to join the Santa Clara/Santa Cruz Counties Community/Airport Roundtable.
Report to Council 18-0632, August 14, 2018 - Adopt a resolution to join the Santa Clara/Santa Cruz Counties Airport/Community Roundtable
The Roundtable is the result of work led by the Cities Association, to gather together Santa Clara and Santa Cruz cities and counties, the San Jose Airport and the FAA, in a forum for discussion of airplane noise issues. The Roundtable will serve as a public forum for residents, and as an effective advocate to the FAA. Prior to its disbandment in May, the Ad Hoc Advisory Committee on South Flow Arrivals - a committee made up of elected officials representing cities in Santa Clara county - identified the Roundtable as an appropriate hearing body to continue the work started by the Committee, and follow up on the airplane noise mitigating recommendation made to the FAA.
For additional information, visit Santa Clara/Santa Cruz Counties Airport/Community Roundtable.
Typically, during winter months, inclement weather and southerly winds reverse the flight pattern at the airport. This is called South Flow.
Under South Flow conditions, aircraft depart to the south and arrive from the north. The weather conditions that cause the change in departure direction mostly occur during the months of September through March. However, during 2016, unseasonable summer winds dramatically increased the number of flights overhead.
The City of Sunnyvale advises residents to contact SJC with concerns about noise. SJC Director of Aviation Kimberly Becker has requested that the FAA “review South Flow flight procedures with the goal of identifying possible solutions to reduce the noise impacts on Sunnyvale residents” (See Correspondence section).
The SJC Noise Office provided a December 2016 Update (PDF) on actions taken to date in response to the increase in noise complaints.
The City Manager provided a Jan. 11, 2017 memo to Council with an update on activity the City is engaged in to advance our advocacy.
Partially in response to the City's request for assistance to help address airplane noise, Congressman Ro Khanna's district staff coordinated a regional meeting with the cities of Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Cupertino and San Jose. The Congressman's office provided a summary of the March 22, 2017 meeting.
In 2016, the FAA granted a request by San Mateo County to approve a six-month pilot program to divert the last leg of airline Surf Air's approach to SQL. The diverted route flew north over Moffett Field and then over San Francisco Bay. The BVA pilot began on July 5, 2016 and ended on Jan. 5, 2017. The request, development and approval to implement the pilot occurred with no notification or outreach to Sunnyvale. The City immediately went on record in opposition to the BVA pilot, citing, among other things, the lack of engagement with our community and encouraged our residents to file noise complaints with the San Carlos Airport. The San Carlos Airport report shows all noise complaints received by the Airport between Jan. 1 and July 12, 2017.
The FAA hosted a Community Involvement Workshop on Sept. 27, 2017 to discuss approach options for Encompass/Surf Air arrivals into SQL. The workshop included presentations from the FAA, Encompass/Surf Air and San Carlos Airport. Following the presentations, representatives from the three organizations answered attendees' questions about the approach options. Supplemental materials on NextGen implementation at SQL are available on FAA Community Involvement - San Carlos.
Thanks to the tireless and continuous involvement by Sunnyvale residents and the support from our representatives, the FAA has concluded that the BVA procedure requires in depth environmental review and therefore is rejecting the request. Below the FAA response:
We have completed an additional review of the procedure request submitted on 1/07/2017 to develop the Bayside Visual approach into SQL. The request was initially approved by the Regional Airspace and Procedures Team (RAPT) on March 9, 2017 with an anticipated publication date of 11/08/18. As part of the procedure development and review process an in depth environmental review was performed. It has been determined that an Environmental Assessment (EA) would be necessary to address potential environmental issues. Additionally, there has been considerable public and Congressional controversy surrounding the procedure. Given this additional information that was unknown at the time of the original RAPT approval, we are unable to move forward with the request at this time.
Stephanie C. Harris
Manager, Flight Procedures Team
FAA, ATO Western Service Center
Operations Support Group AJV-W24
August 23, 2018 Town Hall
October 18, 2016 Town Hall
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. The Office of Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian provided a reformatted version of the FAA Feasibility Study.
Compiled at the Requests of Representatives Farr (Panetta), Eshoo and Speier, this NorCal Initiative Phase Two report provides information on the feasibility and status on each of the recommendations put forward by the SFO Roundtable and Select Committee.