The Flight Paths and Procedures Summary
- The Northern California Metroplex is the seventh largest airport Metroplex in the U.S. It includes Oakland International Airport (OAK), San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC), Sacramento International Airport (SMF), and smaller airports such as Hayward Airport.
- The transition to NextGen for OAK and SFO airports included creating new arrival and departure flight paths, along with new flight path “procedures.” A procedure is “how” the airplane flies along a given path including altitude, whether it is in a gliding descent, or under power flying flat, etc.
The NextGen redesigned flight paths:
- Are extremely narrow and stacked. The OAK path for arriving planes from the north and northeast (WNDSR) was narrowed from over 6 miles wide to a path less than 2,000 feet wide and shifted traffic eastward. To make matters worse, previously dispersed SFO departures now fly along new, narrowed corridors over the OAK flight paths.
- Did not take into account topography. The problematical WNDSR path shifted traffic that previously flew in a dispersed pattern along a wide corridor that extended from over the Bay to the hills, to all aircraft flying in a less than 2000 foot-wide corridor near the ridgeline over homes from 1000 to 1500 feet in elevation. Planes flying at their charted minimum-required-altitude of 4200 feet above sea level for this flight path, end up only 2700 feet above people’s homes, and sometimes even lower than that.
- Can never use the highly touted NextGen quiet gliding descent because the new NextGen OAK arrival path (WNDSR) is designed to fly underneath the departing SFO flights. Pilots instead must use a noisy, powered, level-flying procedure at low altitude for over 23 nautical miles along the East Bay Hills. This descent procedure significantly increases ground noise, fuel usage and aircraft emissions.
- The July 31, 2014 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Finding of No Significant (noise) Impact was based on assumed noise metrics, averaged over 24 hours, without considering real measured data. As such, this finding does not reflect the true disturbance to communities on the ground and fails to recognize the adverse and dramatic impact of individual planes flying over quiet, suburban communities.
NextGen Impacts on East Bay Communities
- Planes Are Too Concentrated and Too Frequent
Planes that were dispersed over many miles are now concentrated into narrow flight paths, creating serious inequitable noise burdens. Before NextGen implementation, residents might have heard five planes a day. Post-NextGen, those same residents can hear the roar of 15 or more planes in a single hour.
- Planes Are Too Loud
The ambient daytime sound level in most East Bay suburbs is 45-50 dB, with nighttime sounds levels dipping to less than 30 dB in some communities. A plane flying overhead can emit over 80 dB of noise. For every 10 dB increase, sound energy is logarithmically increased 10 times and people perceive that noise as twice as loud. An 80 dB plane noise sound exposes the human ear to a sound 10,000 times stronger than a 40 dB sound. That is a significant noise impact.
- Noise Complaints Have Dramatically Increased
- OAK flight complaints:
January 2015 – three complaints
January 2016 – 2,518 complaints
- SFO flight complaints:
January 2015 – one complaint
January 2016 – 494 complaints
- OAK flight complaints:
- Pilot Short Cuts Result in Residents Losing Sleep
Noise relief is supposed to come from special night-time flight paths implemented for planes departing from OAK and SFO. These paths were designed to minimize noise over sleeping communities. However, air traffic controllers have routinely allowed pilots to take short cuts, bringing noisy planes directly over sleeping communities. Air Traffic Control has promised to stop this practice in the East Bay and to help sleeping communities gets their zzzz’s. Unfortunately, arriving flights, using WNDSR from the north into OAK, still roar overhead any time of day or night. There is no special night time flight path for these planes. With OAK being a major UPS and FedEx hub, the East Bay gets a lot of late night, low altitude, noisy, arriving flights.
- Concentrated Flight Corridors Increase Health and Environmental Impacts Concentrated flight corridors over hilly topography can intensify pollutants and noise, and cause distressful reverberating sound in the densely populated hills and canyons below. These environmental changes raise serious health, safety, and quality of life concerns, especially when factoring in lost sleep.