Atherton urges Surf Air to fly at higher altitudes

By Barbara Wood

Special to the Almanac

Taking a new approach in efforts to reduce airplane noise over Atherton, the town is sending a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration urging that planes fly at a higher altitude until closer to the San Carlos Airport.

Noisy planes became an issue soon after a new small airline, Surf Air, began flying passengers into the San Carlos Airport in June 2013. Cory Cozzens, co-founder of Surf Air, says the airline currently has nine daily arrivals in San Carlos on weekdays, four on Saturdays and eight on Sundays.

Surf Air, whose customers pay one monthly price for unlimited flights on small passenger planes, recently added flights to and from the Truckee airport to their weekend flight schedule.

At their May 21 meeting, City Council members agreed to have a letter signed by Mayor Cary Wiest sent to the FAA, urging the change in the GPS flight path that aircraft are asked to observe.

Mr. Cozzens says Surf Air has told the FAA the airline supports the proposed new GPS flight path.

"Adding a higher GPS approach would result in aircraft flying 25% higher over homes in the Atherton, North Fair Oaks and Menlo Park neighborhoods," the letter to the FAA says. "We believe that this increase in altitude would greatly reduce the noise impacts."

Councilman Rick DeGolia, who serves on the San Carlos Airport Noise Working Group along with Councilwoman Elizabeth Lewis, said the airline has promised to make another change to lessen noise. Pilots for the airline have been dropping their landing gear and powering up 6 miles from the airport, he said, while other pilots do that only 3 miles away. Surf Air officials have promised to start dropping the landing gear closer to the airport, he said. "That will be the most material change," Mr. DeGolia said.

In December 2013, approximately 75 people attended a community meeting in Atherton to air their concerns about increased flight noise. Since then the working group has met several times to attempt to find a solution to the problem that would not move aircraft over other residential neighborhoods.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 27, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

This is a great solution which will lower the noise footprint over Atherton and not simply shift the noise to other communities.

Well done Atherton.

Posted by LGA, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on May 27, 2014 at 1:30 pm

I understand that Surf Air provides a service many people are interested in, and that the airport is required to accommodate their flights because of grant or other monies received, but did they have to pick the noisiest planes on the planet? After all, they're taking off & landing over densely populated residential areas. It would have been nice if they'd kept that in mind while making their plans.

Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community
on May 27, 2014 at 1:33 pm

Great changes hope it works out, higher and cleaner should make a big difference. I have seen and heard this plane many times and when it is dirty (gear down) it is noisy.

Good work everyone

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 27, 2014 at 1:36 pm


they chose the safest propeller driven plane on the planet. Which would you rather have, a very safe plane flying over making a little more noise or a quieter one that isn't as safe?

Posted by LGA, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on May 27, 2014 at 5:21 pm

Menlo Voter:

As long as the fuel boost pumps are working and the pilot remembers the FSII de icing additive.
Web Link
Web Link

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 27, 2014 at 5:57 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.


I've read the reports. Look at the statistics for this aircraft. It is the safest single engine propeller driven aircraft in the world. In addition, it is certified for single pilot operation, but Surfair has chosen to operate them with TWO pilots. This adds another level of redundancy and hence safety. You should be more concerned about what could happen to you driving your car than having one of these aircraft fly over your head.

Posted by UC Davis Grad, a resident of another community
on May 27, 2014 at 6:04 pm

As someone who lives in the direct flight path of Moffett Field, I find this discussion rather amusing (which probably doesn't reflect well on me, alas).

I wonder how the fair residents of Atherton would have reacted in the heyday of Moffett, when Navy patrol flights and cargo planes were taking off and landing on a constant basis.

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 27, 2014 at 7:56 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

UC Davis Grad:

I lived in that landing pattern back in the 70's. We had P3 Orions passing overhead almost constantly. To hear some in Atherton describe the Surfair over flights as "torture" is laughable. It's really funny that these rich folks want to stick their heads in the sand and try to pretend they live in some "rural" enclave all the while under the airspace of three major airports. The stupidity or hubris, I'm not sure which it is, is awe inspiring.

Posted by Juan Motai, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on May 27, 2014 at 10:54 pm

I am amazed that a positive outcome can reveal so much about human nature! Everyone is happy with the course of events and yet contributors to this forum turn it into a criticism of "rich folks in Atherton." I live next to the tracks in Menlo Park, am not wealthy, and I struggle with the noise these Surfair planes make. These flights are new as is scheduled commercial air traffic at San Carlos airport. I am happy with the action taken by the Atherton Council. They took action instead of just complaining or criticizing others.

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 28, 2014 at 6:58 am


I live close to the tracks as well which is another reason I find the whole thing laughable. We live in an urban environment. It's noisy. What else is new?

Posted by Will Emite, a resident of another community
on May 28, 2014 at 8:35 am

I still believe that leaf blowers make way more noise, and it seems to go on all day instead of just those few times a day for the planes. The kids love the airplanes, not so thrilled about the leaf blowers.

If you were a member and logged in you could track comments from this story.

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

The dress code
By Jessica T | 21 comments | 1,864 views

September food and drink goings on
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 1,238 views

. . . People will never forget how you made them feel.
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,231 views

College Freshmen: Avoiding the Pitfalls
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 1 comment | 1,075 views

Council election, and then some.
By Stuart Soffer | 5 comments | 458 views