Rhea Mahbubani

San Mateo Board of Supervisors Considers New Surfair Flight Paths to Reduce Noise at San Carlos Airport

The San Mateo Board of Supervisors is mulling new flight paths as a way to mitigate the noise created by Surfair planes that fly in and out of San Carlos Airport.

At a meeting Tuesday, Jim Sullivan with Surfair said the regional airline adjusted its flights’ approach into the airport a few weeks ago. Pilots began flying over Highway 101 to avoid disturbing Atherton residents to "kind of align the airplane with more of a noise corridor rather than over the residential corridors," he said.

But the route triggered backlash from people who live near the freeway because planes are heard every few minutes in the mornings and evenings. 

Now, Surfair has proposed a new path that needs approval from the Federal Aviation Administration and would take flights over Moffett Field, north over the bay and into San Carlos over an industrial area, Sullivan said.

Adjustments will continue to be made over the next several weeks, officials said.

Surfair is asking the board to give its proposed flight path a shot before imposing other restrictions that could reduce noise. County staff is also looking at imposing landing fees and reducing both the number of flights as well as hours of operation.

The private airlines that runs a couple dozen charter planes in and out of San Carlos every day has generated hundreds of noise complaints from people who live under the planes’ final approach.

Atherton's Vice Mayor Mike Lempres said his office has been flooded with complaints. He asked the Board of Supervisors to increase restrictions to address the issue.

"What used to be a quiet county airport" has become a "commercial airport," he said.

Fair Oaks resident John Slater said he just wants the problem to be solved so he can go back to living in peace.

It's "like someone is buzzing your house," he said. "It's a quality-of-life issue and it's substantial."

County staff will come back to the board in late June with final recommendations for supervisors to consider.

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