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Airplane Noise

The City is aware of 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).

What you can do

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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Recent Actions

City Hosts Airplane Noise Town Hall Meeting

The City of Sunnyvale hosted a town hall meeting on Thursday, Aug. 23, to provide residents with an update on aviation noise mitigation efforts to date, highlights from the Ad Hoc Committee on South Flow Arrivals Report recommendations pertaining to Sunnyvale, and the City's next steps. The public had an opportunity to speak and address their concerns with the City Council and special guest Congressman Ro Khanna.

Town Hall Meeting Presentation

Town Hall Meeting: Response to Public Questions

Ad Hoc Advisory Committee on South Flow Arrivals

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 because of:

  1. more days requiring south flow configuration;
  2. south flow wind conditions lasting longer and;
  3. the greater concentration of arriving flights.

The charge of the Ad Hoc Advisory Committee on South Flow Arrivals is to:

  1. Gather input, concerns, and comments from the general public on the south flow issue.
  2. Identify and discuss possible measures to address the procedure's noise impacts.
  3. Recommend potentially “feasible” options for FAA consideration.

Report of the Ad Hoc Advisory Committee on South Flow Arrivals

Materials from May 18, 2018 Committee Meeting

To view previous meeting agendas and minutes, visit the Ad Hoc Advisory Committee website.


Congressman Ro Khanna facilitated meeting with Federal Aviation Officials to discuss South Flow at SJC

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.


NextGen is a modernization of existing air traffic control systems using GPS and other technologies to improve data reliability. Modernized airports in this area include SFO, PAO and SJC.

The City is monitoring the additional air traffic over Sunnyvale resulting from the FAA's implementation of NextGen. The data collected will be used to better inform discussions with the FAA.

San Jose International Airport (SJC) South Flow

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).

Read the December 2016 Update (pdf) for actions the SJC Noise Office has taken to date in response to the increase in complaints.

Read the City Manager's memo to the City Council for further detail on the City of Sunnyvale's recent activity.

Learn more about South Flow

Surf Air's San Carlos Airport Bayside Visual Approach (BVA)

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 linked report provided by the San Carlos Airport shows all noise complaints received by the Airport between January 1, and July 12, 2017.and encouraged our residents to file noise complaints with the San Carlos Airport. The linked report provided by the San Carlos Airport shows all noise complaints received by the Airport between January 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. The FAA Community Involvement - San Carlos web page provides supplemental materials on NextGen implementation at SQL.

Congressman Ro Khanna and Mayor Hendricks wrote to the FAA to oppose the procedure.

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

Town Hall Meeting

The City Council hosted a town hall meeting on October 18, 2016, to hear concerns about airplane noise from Sunnyvale residents. Topics included: types of air traffic over Sunnyvale, recent changes to flight patterns for SQL arrivals and South Flow flights from SJC.

View the full recording of the meeting, which includes presentation materials from San Mateo County and SJC.

Select Committee on South Bay Arrivals

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.

FAA Feasibility Study

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 as provided by the Office of Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian.

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.


Last Updated: Nov 16, 2018