Calm the Skies mounts protest against Surf Air at San Carlos Airport
Calm the Skies, a group formed of residents of Atherton, North Fair Oaks and other cities that are under the flight path of Surf Air Pilatus PC-12 turboprop airplanes, held a protest at San Carlos Airport on Sunday calling for Surf Air to leave the area.
Some 80 people, residents of cities as far away as Sunnyvale, showed up with signs and bullhorns to chant “Go away, Surf Air” and other slogans. They also chanted at some Surf Air passengers — on the other side of a fence from the tarmac — who reacted by making photos of the protesters, according to Jennifer Tasseff, who was there.
Sunnyvale residents have joined the protest because when the Surf Air airplanes are on one of two approaches to land at San Carlos Airport, they go over a portion of that city. It is indicative of the noise created by the turboprops that even at that higher altitude, they still significantly disrupt the quiet.
On the other approach, which passes right over Atherton’s Holbrook-Palmer Park, at a much lower altitude, the planes make so much noise that people standing next to each other can’t hear each other in conversation. Windows rattle, dishes fall, babies wake.
The airport has received many thousands of complaints about the noisy airplanes since Surf Air began operations there in 2013, and, as Atherton City Council member Elizabeth Lewis remarked on Wednesday, “It hasn’t gotten better, it’s gotten worse. I am very, very frustrated.”
Lewis has long been a part of a working group trying to find a solution to the noise created by the planes, and has attended countless meetings with Surf Air and airport authorities and San Mateo County officials, but said the airline has “continued to expand and disrupt the quiet.”
“My personal feeling is that the county supervisors should be doing a lot more than what they are doing,” said Lewis. “They have some legal standing to manage the airport for the community at large.”
A phone call to Supervisor Lee Horsley, who attended a meeting on the issue in the Pavilion Building at Atherton’s Holbrook-Palmer Park in August 2016, was not returned before deadline.
Adam Ullman of North Fair Oaks, who has long worked to combat the noise created by the Surf Air planes, also thinks the county should take action, and has his “fingers crossed that the county will put something forth.”
Ullman, who has filed suit against Surf Air in the past in Small Claims Court, in an action that lost on appeal because the judge thought it should go to Superior Court, said Ullman, appreciated the protest on Sunday.
“Absolutely. It’s a good new approach. …
“These planes are loud. This particular plane (the Pilatus PC-12) is louder than a 737 or a 757.”
Ullman agrees that the county “has to put something together,” and notes that the recent management change at Surf Air — CEO Jeff Potter and senior vice president of operations Jim Sullivan are out, and a management company, Encompass Aviation, has taken over — has put efforts to regain some quiet behind.
“We’ve been working with Surf Air for years,” Ullman said. “Now we’re back at ground zero, starting with a new management team. The county needs to put something in place.”
The county board of supervisors is expected to take up the issue again in July, and several options have been floated, from establishing some kind of curfew limiting flights to raising airport fees enough to make it a problem for Surf Air to operate.