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small plane noise 24/7

Original post made by robert alvarez, East Palo Alto, on Jan 13, 2007

is there anyone else in palo alto that is tired of listening to the noise and lo-flying planes 24/7 ??? we can do something about it ..i think it is time to shut down the airport before it only gets worse .. ther is better use of the me at [email protected]

Comments (23)

Posted by robert alvarez
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 13, 2007 at 1:40 pm

i live in menlo park robert alvarez

Posted by Will
a resident of another community
on Jan 13, 2007 at 4:49 pm

I agree!

I live next to 101, and I'm tired of the noise. Why can't they shut that thing down by 8 PM and open it back up at 8 AM? Cars should not be able to disturb my sleep. I don't care if 101 was here before my house was built here. I am here now.

People don't really need cars, anyway. Let them walk. I do.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 13, 2007 at 5:45 pm

Airports should have the authority to buy the house of anyone with a noise complaint and resell it to someone else with a noise easement. The Palo Alto airport, like the yacht harbor and the train and bus depots are critical components of the community.

Posted by Todd
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 13, 2007 at 9:59 pm

Mr. Alvarez,

You must be fooling and it is not even April 1st yet.

Posted by Dave
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 13, 2007 at 11:14 pm


You are quite right about the noise from the PA Airport: it's quite troublesome, and unreasonable for a "residential" suburb like ours to have to put up with. It's a mystery to me why the airport seems to have so much political support in town: many of the users are not even residents of Palo Alto...and yet they seem to be able to marshal a lot of support in the council. I doubt if you can do anything about it, but I admire you for trying. Good luck.

While you're tilting at windmills, you might look into the flight patterns of SFO which has a major southern approach flying right over Palo Alto. It used to be over Atherton...but I guess money talks or something. (Check out Web Link to see what I mean: constant flyovers of jets, which are almost as bothersome as the small planes from the PA airport.)

Posted by robert alvarez
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 14, 2007 at 5:13 pm

this is for todd and his comment.. i 'm sorry i don't understand the joke .. of course it will not be easy but palo alto does own the airport and the lease will be up at some point and public opinion does count still in this country i think... complaints must be filed when it occurs and than would take a little time. "the squeaky wheel gets the grese" i have that telephone number and website to do so.. write to kniss and eshoo and tell the city council ther are about 500 pilots and many live out of the area and we are over 150,000 i would estimate having the overflights...

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 14, 2007 at 5:57 pm

While many of the pilots and aircraft owners may not be Palo Alto residents, you, Mr. Alverez admittedly are not either. Your depiction of Palo Alto as a "residential" subburb suggests that you haven't the slightest idea of what goes on around here. The airport is an essential component of the technical and medical centers we enjoy and that feed us. I am really annoyed by the buzzing of folks who really need to get on a bus.

Posted by Todd
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 14, 2007 at 6:14 pm

Mr. Alverez,

The joke is you knew you were buying a home next to a airport and now, because you feel "there is too much noise", you want it to be close. You are right- public opinion does count! So, why don't you start a "lets close the Palo Alto airport" drive. Put your time and money where your mouth is.

Posted by buzz
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 14, 2007 at 10:44 pm

So does anyone know why the airplane noise is greater on overcast or rainy days... and it doesn't always seem to be small aircraft... Is it standard to lower altitude of incoming flights in rainy weather?

Posted by Noah
a resident of University South
on Jan 14, 2007 at 10:58 pm

Hi Buzz,
As a non-current pilot (just had our first child, so putting off the hobby for a few years) I thought I'd answer your question about the weather.
When the weather is bad (overcast, cloudy), pilots will often choose to stay below the cloud deck to stay in visual contact with the ground. I too notice an increase in aircraft noise during poor weather and suspect it is due to this type of flying. I'm guessing that most pilots do it legally, but on rare occasion (maybe 2x/year) I notice a significantly louder/possibly lower aircraft fly overhead.
To remark for a moment on altitude, even those pilots who fly low overhead are almost certainly not doing it on purpose. Most small aircraft I've seen or rented (some from Palo Alto Airport too) don't have autopilots, and those that do don't hold altitude for you.

A final remark here is that pilots to Palo Alto airport would very likely fly higher and quieter were it not for the draconian, profit-serving air restrictions imposed by San Francisco's airspace. For much of the bay area, private pilots are unable to fly above about 1,500 feet due to what's called SFO's "class Bravo" airspace. Most pilots would prefer to fly higher & quieter, but they can't legally do so - that airspace is essentially reserved for the commercial airlines - even though they don't use 99% of it.

Flying is my most beloved hobby, and part of why I chose to live in Palo Alto was the close proximity of a GA airport (General Aviation). GA is a fantastic resource for any community and in general most pilots really try to respect and contribute to their communities. Here is a good website sponsored by non-commercial aviation in the USA: Web Link

Some other links with stats and resources on Palo Alto Airport are:
Web Link
Web Link
Did you know Palo Airport has almost 600 takeoffs & landings per day? Of those, about 40% are actual air travel and not just local training/etc.

Posted by Sarah
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 15, 2007 at 8:16 am


I am bothered often by small aircraft noise. I hope you are right that most pilots don't bother us "on purpose", though I have to wonder when a plane roars overhead on a clear day low enough to see clearly from the ground. My guess is that even those who don't do it "on purpose" pay little heed to the effects of their actions on those of us on the ground. They're too self-absorbed with their beloved "hobby" to care what others have to endure so they can enjoy it.

In any event, I find it difficult to see how those enjoying an expensive hobby should be permitted to annoy those of on the ground to the extent they do. That simply does not seem like the proper balance of rights in a crowded area like ours. That SFO takes away a lot of your flexibility is hardly an excuse. General Aviation belongs in rural areas.

Posted by Tolerance
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 15, 2007 at 8:34 am

Personally, aircraft noise doesn't bother me. I grew up around O'Hare airport, and I can tell you that what you experience here is like a library compared to O'hare. Then again, I love planes, and I enjoy it when they are lower because I get a better view.
I was interested to read Noah's comment, because I had always wondered why planes departing SJC seem to be so much lower on rainy days. I think its awesome to see that.
Not everyone enjoys planes as much as me, but I think people could benefit from just accepting the fact that life in a major metro area is probably going to be a bit noisier than life in the middle of nowhere. If you live in the middle of nowhere, you can't exactly drive 30 minutes to SFO and catch a plane to Hong Kong or Tokyo, though!

Posted by robert alvarez
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 15, 2007 at 9:43 am

todd.. i bought my home 25 years ago and have no problem with the sfo traffic because as tolerance pointed out i know i can be out of here in 3o minutes to the airport . by the way learn how to spell... my name at least.and at some point i will put my money where my mouth is and see the airport closed just as the yacht harbour was.

Posted by Theresa
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 15, 2007 at 12:10 pm

I'm also a non-current pilot who learned to fly at Palo Alto airport. I maintain my membership in one of the flying clubs there and plan to get current in the not-too-distant future.

I've noticed a serious drop in flight traffic in the last couple of years, linked directly to the price of aviation fuel. My flight instructor tells me that student training is way off, because it's just too expensive right now to learn to fly for most people.

I like the airport, even though I'm in the flight pattern. Those of us who are trained at Palo Alto know the noise abatement rules, and as Noah notes above, we are seriously restricted in terms of altitude because of the various airspaces above us (both SFO and San Jose airport require special clearances to enter their airspaces).

The noise I notice most often is due to planes that are flown by people from out of the area. The tower notifies pilots who are flying too low that they are in violation of the voluntary noise abatement rules. You should listen in on the tower frequency on a sunny weekend day sometime.

There is no way the noise happens 24/7, as the original poster alleges -- exaggerating doesn't help you make your point, Mr. Alvarez.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 15, 2007 at 2:37 pm

Mr. Alverez, please apply your wit to my arguments, above.

Posted by robert alvarez
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 15, 2007 at 5:32 pm

mr. wallis..thank you for your comments.please help me out here.. if palo alto is not a "suburb" then what is it? a village ,urban??PLease explain how the airport is "essential" to our medical centers( stanford has it's helicopters and i certainly have no problem with them)also the "technical"aspect that we "enjoy" and really "feed us"? what arrives by small planes that is edible?? i await your response thank you.

Posted by buzz
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 15, 2007 at 9:34 pm

I know for sure that some flights fly low enough to rattle my midtown windows on a fairly regular basis at 2 and 3 am... especially in the winter. They are loud enough to wake the kids up (me too). I'm guessing these are commercial flights based on the information supplied above?

Posted by Noah
a resident of University South
on Jan 15, 2007 at 10:36 pm

Hi Buzz & others,
Here are a few more links & thoughts that may help or at least inform on the topic. First is a link to a map showing just how close Midtown PA (Safeway to be exact) is to both Palo Alto Airport and Moffit Federal Air Field. I've seen (on my former commute down 101) many very low and loud patterns by military aircraft in and out of Moffit and suspect they might be the source of some of your noise concerns. Here's the map:

Web Link

Another great link was the first result I found for searching for "history of palo alto airport" hosted by this very website (PA weekly/online): Web Link
An interesting and significant fact: PA Airport was moved in 1935 from Stanford to it's current Embarcadero location to help reduce noise issues in the surrounding communities. It would appear that the airport was at it's current location well before much of the midtown housing was built. Here's an article about the 1950s housing boom in Palo Alto, a good 15 years after the airport was constructed: Web Link

Here's a great article from this very paper talking about the PA Airport that notes: "It has only one noise complaint for every 63,909 operations, which an expert on airport noise called "the lowest number of complaints per operations I have ever heard of for any size airport."

Web Link

And here's the Barron park noise neighborhood association noise problem website. It's pretty clear that commercial aircraft noise from both SJC and SFO affect all of Palo Alto (I just heard a commercial jet overfly my house and have not heard a private plane all weekend).

Web Link

Hope this is helpful & good luck!

Posted by Todd
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 15, 2007 at 10:50 pm

Mr. Alvarez,

The upper case button on your keyboard is the Shift button.

Look forward to see you out ringing doorbells and walking the streets to get your "close the airport" drive going.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 16, 2007 at 8:20 am

[Post removed.]

Posted by foobar
a resident of another community
on Jan 17, 2007 at 4:24 pm

If the Palo Alto airport has received money from the FAA for improvements, they will have signed a grant assurance to keep the airport operating for 20 years. Check into that.
There was a move recently to close the Concord airport which failed due to having received these funds and also because the land was donated by the federal government to act as an airport in perpetuity. When the developers realized they would not get a hold of the land, they gave up.

Posted by Justin
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 31, 2007 at 9:39 pm

The airport was here long before moved in - you knew it was here, don't complain about now. You should have thought about it before you bought/rented your house.

Posted by Calma Abajo
a resident of another community
on Mar 17, 2007 at 2:06 pm

Here in San Mateo, we are assaulted from sun up to past sun down by the "recreational" airplanes from San Carlos airport, flying over to Half Moon Bay Airport.

Our county, which owns both airports, actively promotes flights between the two, in order to fund their operating budget.

Don't believe the business propaganda that the airports are vital to business. B.S. They are vital to flight-training businesses, that's for sure. But there is no rational excuse to let these old and noisy planes buzz over our schools, homes, hospitals, gardens, and open spaces -- unabated and unchecked.

They fly over out house at 500 feet all the time. When we complain, they say the FAA is in charge of that. The FAA scorns any report. It is a scenario played out sadistically in communities nationwide.

The FAA exists to promote commerce. Period. They don't give a hang about noise pollution. They don't care that many pilots have no business flying over people's homes. Too many pilots are "self-medicating" with adrenaline and their needs are better served by medical intervention. They are well-known to retaliate on those who complain by buzzing their homes.

These airports aid and abet hobbyists, people. HOBBYISTS. And, the trouble is our city councils on the Peninsula are peopled with Chamber of Commerce synchophants. Too bad we lack papers who will do enterprise reporting and actually dig into these connections. Too bad the influx of new residents aren't as interested in their community as in making money and the next new gadget.

Guess what? Their children are suffering neurocognitive disorders in unprecedented nubmers. Occupational therapists who treat sensory integration disorder are back-logged 6 months or more for appointment times.

Our children can't process all this noise and commotion. We are messing with their brains, and it has to stop. The narcissistic entitled classs must be told "no" for a change.


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