San Francisco Airport leans on new technology to limit noise pollution

Aug 11, 2023 | Blog, Quiet Coalition

Photo credit: Constantine Kulikovsky, licensed by CC BY 3.0

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies

Residents across the country who have complained about the horrific impacts of overhead aircraft noise will be interested in this article by Gennady Sheyner. It informs us that San Francisco International Airport is going to draft new routes that would “allow aircraft to fly higher and veer closer to the Bay” as they pass the city of Palo Alto. The airport will be employing newly-developed technology to allow aircraft to take routes that will increase the distance between aircraft in the sky and homes on the ground.  

The Ground-Based Augmentation System (GBAS) is in its early stages and the airport’s consultant Paul Hannah stated that implementation is limited, as only approach procedures are being evaluated. Arrivals and departures are not being investigated at this time. Some Palo Alto residents point out another limitation, that aggregate data will be used rather than data from specific flights. SFO officials disagree. Jennifer Landesman, a long-term critic of aircraft noise, views this effort to lessen aviation noise as “piecemeal” and urges SFO staff to “measure the cumulative effects of its policy changes.”

The article ends with one Palo Alto resident saying: “I hear all the scientific data but I don’t see any relief in sight.” This statement is comparable to those made by residents living with aircraft noise who note there are sufficient studies linking aircraft noise to adverse health effects, but the Federal Aviation Administration still calls noise an “annoyance” rather than a serious health hazard.

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