Letter: Just a thought


Posted by on Fri, September 5, 2008

Just wondering what it would be like to sit in my house with the windows open and a gentle breeze flowing through and to be able to hear the birds? All I hear are plane engines. I assume they are doing their take off and landing practice. I am not opposed to the airport or the planes, just would like to hear something other than engines all day long on beautiful days like today.

As I said, just a thought.

I’m always curious about stories like these:  if you don’t like the sound of airplanes, why did you decide to live near an airport?  At Cunha Intermediate School, we get calls every day from people who are unhappy with the sound of dismissal bells, kids making noise, etc.  I’m always puzzled why they chose to live right next to a school, if they don’t like the sound that schools make.

I’m sorry for your discomfort.  I used to live near the airport and would run outside every time I heard a plane taking off, just to see what kind of plane it was.  Perhaps you’ll find a quieter place to live at some point.  Or maybe learn to fly and fall in love with airplane noise!

Comment 2
Sat, September 6, 2008 6:38am
All my comments

Or learn to fly. When I earned my pilot’s license, I lived half an hour from the airport I flew out of, adding an hour to each of my lessons.

The HMB airport is indeed a popular place for flyers on nice days. Most small-plane pilots aren’t licensed to fly in the fog, so they take advantage of clear days on the coast. So the beautiful days like today attract pilots too.

I don’t really know the real estate market up there, but I assume that houses under the airport flight pattern sell for a little less to compensate for the noise. (Maybe Steve can comment.) The problem is, you end up with a second mortgage payment in the form of engine noise on sunny days.

Please…Katherine…I said it was just a thought…not a complaint. I have lived here on the coast for 30 years…I love it here. Raised my sons and now my grandson lives here. Please do not confuse thoughts with complaints.I not only would do the same as you and run out to see what type of plane , but I worked for an airline….so I know now to keep my thoughts tomy self.

Comment 4
Sat, September 6, 2008 8:26am
Barry Parr
All my comments

Noise is a problem, and aircraft engine noise is an issue that we should be able to discuss without making folks feel foolish for bringing it up. It’s random, annoying, and especially frequent when we’re likeliest to have our windows open.  There is a sense that some pilots are not observing the rules, but it’s difficult, if not impossible to prove.

Context: I grew up on a series of air force bases, near the flight path of fighter jets on training missions. This is pretty tame by that standard, but I can see why Moss Beach residents want to see that the rules are followed, or even enforced.

Where we live in Montara it’s not so bad. In Moss Beach Park, which is not at the heart of the problem, on a nice day it’s pretty bad.

Generally, I think it would be a good idea if we paid more attention to the noise we subject ourselves and our neighbors to all the the time. That was a big reason why I found the city council’s decision to site a concrete crusher near a residential neighborhood to be so thoughtless.

Comment 5
Sat, September 6, 2008 1:48pm
Steven Hyman
All my comments

I don’t think the airport has had much impact on home prices in Moss beach over the long term, either east or west side.  Many of the homes on the east side have beautiful ocean views. The west side offers walking distance to the beach.

I know every home I sell there as well in El Granada and Montara has a disclosure for the airport. Additionally, its kind of hard to miss driving north from HMB.

Airplane noise has increased over the years.  If it is this bad in a down economy, I think something ought to be done before more folks buy airplanes to fly in and out from here or we have larger aircraft using the airport.

In 1996/1997 the County started, but never completed, the airport master plan.  We were told that the HMB airport Master Plan would be done after the one for San Carlos airport was finished.  The SC Plan was finished in 2004.

Be aware that the master plan could make matters worse, from a 1997 article: ” ‘California Residents Fear that Ambitious Master Plan for Small Airport Will Bring More Noise and Development’ (Jun. 9, 1997). The San Francisco Chronicle reports that a draft of the Half Moon Bay Airport master plan in Half Moon Bay, California was made public in recent weeks, and proposes a long list of improvements, including the use of the entire length of the 5,000 foot runway, and the installation of equipment to enable planes to land in bad weather. The plan has raised the concern of some residents who believe the airport development could encourage more flights by bigger planes, opening the door to more noise, people, and development in the area. The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors will consider the master plan on July 22.” [http://www.nonoise.org/news/cityH.htm]

We should all participate in the HMB airport master plan meetings when they are re-started.  In 1997 there were mainly pilots at the master plan meetings.  There were only a few citizens concerned about noise.  Perhaps that was because the airport use had been declining then. 

It appears that there may be federal money available to extend the runway and put in more sophisticated aviation systems.  <http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/planning/aeronaut/documents/sre/bay-area.pdf>  If this happens we will have larger [and noisier] airplanes at all times of day. 

<http://www.nonoise.org/resource/trans/air/airport.htm> offers some good information on airport noise and planning considerations.


It is naive to assume that because a box is checked on a real estate disclosure form, and that a buyer can observe an airport, they are aware of the extent of potential noise from aircraft.

Although aware of the airport when I purchased my home in Montara four years ago, I had no idea that pilots would be allowed to buzz our community with “touch and go’s” over and over again.  THIS was not disclosed to me nor was it evident from the presence of an airport.

The unfortunate residents who happen to be in the flight path do not all have the resources to move as did the first commentor.  Actually the flight path itself it ill-defined and unenforced.  I do not mind the occasional plane landing and taking off but the repetative buzzing by the same planes is unacceptable.  Some coastal residential areas, such as Montara, have never even been designated as “noise sensative” on the maps handed out to pilots.  The residents of the coast deserve the same noise abatement procedures that San Carlos residents have in place.  We do not have them at this time.

Comment 8
Mon, September 8, 2008 5:45am
All my comments

The quote below was in the county aviation newsletter in June. The regular guidelines and map are here. Procedures like this are going to be a marginal improvement at best, though, for nearby residents, even when they’re carefully observed.

WRT real estate, a buyer’s agent should do more than check a box for airport noise, but obviously there are other motivations present….

Half Moon Bay Airport Noise Abatement Reminder 

We have recently received an increase in the number of noise complaints
from neighbors in the community surrounding the Half Moon Bay
Airport. It is important for all pilots to make every effort to comply with
the established noise abatement procedures for the Half Moon Bay
Airport which include: no turns after departure until reaching 500’ MSL;
using your aircraft’s quietest departure techniques; maintaining pattern
altitude of 1,000’ MSL until necessary to descend for landing.  To the
extent possible, please also make every effort to avoid flying
unnecessarily wide traffic patterns. A complete description of the
Airport’s noise abatement procedures and pilot handout are available in
the airport offices and on the Airports’ website. Your help and
cooperation with the airport’s noise abatement program is appreciated.

Comment 9
Mon, September 8, 2008 12:11pm
Susan Webb
All my comments

Whoever made the comment that “nothing” can be done about the endless circling, low flying noise over residential areas is one of the reasons it’s taken so long for action being taken.

How wonderful it is for pilots to enjoy their sunny rides, while people on the ground have to close up their homes, wear earplugs and forget they have a yard to relax in & enjoy.

The huge increase of these invasive planes is illegal & can be proven.  For the pilots, why don’t you fly over your own homes & let your families complain & suffer from lack of peace.

Way back, while the Airport Master Plan Update was being discussed, MCC had an Airport Committee.  I attended most or all of the meetings and learned a lot about this airport.  (And by the way Steve, a few people who bought houses in MB have in fact claimed that they didn’t know there was an airport there.  Kind of hard to miss…)

Extending the runway will not require any paving—just a can of paint and an administrative order.  This airport is 5,000’ long, but has “displaced thresholds.”  Those are simply a line across the runway indicating part of the pavement which is normally not allowed to be used.  I don’t remember the precise length, but it’s in the ball park of 730 feet at each end, making the usable runway length approximately 3,500 feet.  There are displaced thresholds at each end because the runway is used in one direction (“30”) when the wind is blowing in the normal direction and it’s used in the other direction (“12”) when the wind is blowing the other direction, which around here is 10% of the time.

There was and may still be a proposal to eliminate the displaced thresholds, allowing use of the full 5,000 feet of existing concrete.  This would allow larger, heavier, and therefore noisier plans to use this airport.  It will bring more noise closer to Moss Beach Residents, and enlarge the “Airport Overlay” (“AO”) zone in Princeton which restricts development.

In the referenced past discussions, some Moss Beach residents wanted to shift the displaced thresholds south to get the noise away from Moss Beach, which would negatively impact development potential in Princeton.  More than a few Princeton property owners wanted to shift the thresholds north to allow more development in Princeton.  These proposals would also changed the patterns, causing impacts on El Granada, east Moss Beach, and maybe even Montara.  If I recall, the Visual Flight Rules approach approaches the 30 runway at a 90 angle from the ocean, crossing the runway, flying a 3/4 circle over Rancho Corral de Tierra and part of El Granada to get to north-bound straight in approach.  Shifting the displaced thresholds in either direction will have a negative impact on a significant part of El Granada in addition to other areas that I’ve already described.  **I propose that the only reasonable compromise is to do nothing, keeping the displaced thresholds as they are today.**

Footnote:  Instrument approaches have been allowed for years if the plane has the right equipment and the pilot is appropriately certified.  However, when they’re down to some few hundred feet (I forget the actual altitude), if they can’t see the runway I believe that they **must** do a “missed approach” and go land elsewhere.  There was talk of installing more instrumentation but I’ve forgotten the details and I think there wasn’t enough demand to justify the expense.  Be aware that as traffic increases, demand could increase to where it’s economically viable to install the equipment.