McClellan-Palomar Airport

Saturday, October 22, 2005
Airplane noise levels in San Marcos not enough to warrant change
By DAVID STERRETT
The San Diego (CA) North County Times

SAN MARCOS —- Airplanes flying over three mobile-home parks on the western edge of San Marcos create loud noise for residents, but not enough to warrant significant changes to the flight path for the McClellan-Palomar Airport, city and airport officials said this week. Recent airport data show that many times a day, planes create noise comparable to the humming of a dishwasher, but the noise levels for a 24-hour period do not exceed city standards for residential areas.

San Marcos City Councilman Jim Desmond, who is a pilot with Delta Airlines, county officials who run the airport in Carlsbad and several representatives of the parks met to review the data this week because residents have complained in recent months about airplane noise.

The local officials said they plan to work with pilots and air-traffic controllers on a voluntary program to reduce the noise for residents of the 1,200 mobile homes.

“They have been doing what they can for us,” said Charles Buckley, a resident of the Rancho Vallecitos Mobile Home Estates.

Buckley has spearheaded the push to reduce airplane noise for residents of Rancho Vallecitos and the two neighboring Palomar Estates mobile-home parks.

The parks sit more than three miles away from the airport and airplanes often fly only about 900 feet above the mobile homes on their approach paths.

The data from a noise monitor that has been in the park for more than 10 years show that, 99 percent of the time, the noise level in the park is well below the city’s acceptable standard, which is an average level of about 55 decibels during the day for residential areas.

The average noise level at the park for the entire day is low, but 15 and 20 times a day, the airplane noise is above 70 decibels for six-second periods, according to the data. Seventy decibels is similar to the noise made by a vacuum cleaner.

The data also show that at certain points, the noise level has reached about 88 decibels, which is comparable to the noise made by a food blender, officials say.

Buckley said he thought the readings were a little low, and that noise has increased in the parks in the last five years as more corporate jets fly into the airport.

Jets are louder than recreational aircraft, but they also move through the area more quickly, said Olivier Brackett, the assistant airport manager. He said jets comprise only about 25 percent of the planes using the airport, while most of the planes are used for recreational or training purposes.

But Willie Vasquez, the new manager of the airport, said as more and more jets fly into the North County airport, residents living near airports should expect change.

“This airport, the way you see it now, could be different in 15 years,” Vasquez said. “When you live near an airport, you need to realize it will not always stay the same.”

As more and more people move to North County, there will be more air traffic, said Brackett.

But airport statistics show there is less activity on the runway now than in 1999, which was a record year with 292,000 landings and takeoffs.

Brackett said there will probably only be about 210,000 takeoffs or landings this year, about the same as last year.

Last year was the first time in five years that the amount of activity at the airport increased over the previous year, and Brackett said the period of decline may have changed residents’ perceptions of the noise.

“People may notice more airplanes than a couple of years ago and they are now more sensitive to the noise,” Brackett said.

He said the county plans to work with the pilots and air-traffic controllers so they know they need to avoid flying planes over the mobile-home parks when possible. The traffic pattern calls for planes flying into the area from the north to circle around the airport and to approach from the east.

Many airplanes turn back toward the runway before heading as far east as the mobile-home parks, but when there is a lot of traffic, the planes have to make wider circles to keep enough space between them.

“The county is actively working to develop a noise abatement program for approaches,” Brackett said. “But the community needs to understand there are limits to the system.”

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