Monterey Peninsula Airport- Noise Issues

Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Residents seek airport noise limits
Nighttime landings to get later next month
By JULIA REYNOLDS
The Monterey (CA) Herald

Residents living near the Monterey Peninsula Airport are making noise over the prospect of jets landing after 1 a.m., generators cranking in the early dawn hours and low-flying private planes that rattle windows. That and other noise complaints prompted airport manager Tom Greer to make a presentation that he hoped would answer residents’ concerns at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

“We have worked very hard to be a good neighbor,” Greer said.

One complaint concerns noise from late night airport landings, which are likely to occur even later next month.

The airport has a “voluntary curfew” for pilots, which discourages flights from landing or taking off between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. But the cutoff time is not enforceable, Greer said.

“Most flights adhere to the curfew,” he said.

Only a small percentage of flights land after 10 p.m., Greer said, noting that one recent late-night arrival was an 11 p.m. flight that brought penguins from a Louisiana zoo to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

The airport’s Web site, however, lists two United Express flights that arrive at 11:14 and 11:17 p.m. every day.

“If that small percentage is at 11:30 at night every night, that’s 100 percent of nights,” resident Dan Presser said.

And America West airlines has plans for three Las Vegas flights a week to land in Monterey at 1:27 a.m., starting Nov. 10.

Although the airport is managed by a separate government from the city, Monterey’s general plan includes a recommendation that the city “continue to encourage the airport to limit airport noise” from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Councilman Jeff Haferman suggested the council ought to come up with a resolution to tell airlines “you’re not welcome” after 11 p.m.

“Otherwise this is not worth the paper it’s printed on,” he said, referring to the general plan’s airport section.

Residents of the Casanova Oak Knoll neighborhood also complained of noise before 6 a.m. from diesel generators and construction equipment, and many of them said they live just outside boundaries that would make them eligible for free insulation remodeling paid for by the federal government.

Greer said the rules come from the government. The airport, he said, put off revising older noise abatement maps so that more residents could be eligible for the program.

Residents also complained of low-flying private planes that divert from normal flight paths. There are 40 private hangars at the airport and plans are in the works to build eight more. Greer acknowledged that private planes are a far greater source of noise than commercial airliners.

That statement prompted Councilwoman Libby Downey to ask how many of the airport district’s five board members, who decide much of the airport’s policies, are private pilots. Three or four, Greer said. FAA records show that board members Ronald Phoebus, Leonard McIntosh and Richard Searle all have pilot licenses.

Board members are elected and are not required to have aviation experience or credentials.

One problem is that private airplanes don’t fall under the same federal noise restriction laws as commercial flights, but Greer said there is a movement in aviation circles to bring private airplanes under the same rules.

Members of the Casanova Oak Knoll Neighborhood Association have been battling for years with the airport on a number of issues. In 2003, they launched a grassroots campaign demanding cleanup of toxic chemicals from an old Navy air station on the site. That effort forced the removal of trichloroethene (TCE) found in Oak Knoll groundwater.

In September, Army Corps of Engineers officials told residents that treatment systems have processed close to 46 million gallons of water, reducing TCE levels by about 65 percent. Cleanup of chemical plumes in the neighborhood could take three to five years longer, officials said.

The Monterey meeting was only one stop in a series for Greer. In a few weeks he’ll be making another presentation to the Del Rey Oaks City Council, hoping to get approval for a new road that would lighten the traffic on Airport Road.

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