San Jose- Cameras to Catch Airport Curfew Violators

Thursday, April 7, 2005
Cameras to catch curfew violators
The San Jose (CA) Mercury News

To better enforce its noise curfew, San Jose’s airport will install two thermal-imaging cameras in July to snap infrared pictures of planes that are not supposed to take off or land during the overnight ban. The San Jose City Council on Tuesday approved spending $18,730 to have the cameras installed on Terminal C overlooking the runways, the final step after spending about $105,000 earlier this fiscal year on the cameras.

Under the airport’s 17-month-old curfew, planes that produce more than 89 decibels of noise are barred from flying from 11:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. The old curfew applied to passenger and cargo planes that weighed more than 75,000 pounds.

The airport already monitors curfew violators through regular cameras, citizen complaints, daily reviews of air traffic control transmissions and workers at its 24-hour operations center.

Acting Aviation Director Frank Kirkbride said the new cameras will improve the monitoring system by providing a “thermal signature” of the exact moment planes touch down or take off. He said such photographs could prove useful in the event that an airline disputes that it violated the policy and appeals the $2,500 per-incident fine to the Airport Commission.

“I don’t think we’re missing a whole lot now,” Kirkbride said. “But we’ll be able to better pinpoint when the tires hit the pavement.”

But residents who live near the airport said the cameras are a token gesture that does nothing to address the bigger noise problem created by the city’s new curfew policy. Commercial jets are now allowed to fly in the middle of the night as long as they are relatively quiet.

This week, America West’s new daily flight from Las Vegas began landing at 1:25 a.m., about two hours later than the usual curfew cutoff of 11:30 p.m.

“Never mind the planes that violate the curfew by a couple of minutes, the curfew now has a big loophole in it,” said John Allen, a College Park resident. “The cameras are good, but they just divert attention away from the America West flight in the middle of the night.”

Councilman Ken Yeager, whose District 6 includes many airport neighbors, asked Kirkbride to report periodically to the council about the number of planes that take off before 6:30 a.m.