Monday, March 5, 2018

Sky Posse Palo Alto

Dear Neighbors,

Airplane noise got Council’s attention at key City meetings on February 3d and 13th.Thank you to all who attended!

See the press coverage on efforts to reduce airplane noise:

Palo Alto Weekly: The Weekly hosted an in depth interview with Deputy City Manager Michelle Poche Flaherty on Airplane Noise.

Palo Alto Matters: is a new community resource for news, data, commentary and connections. See the page on Grassroots Voices.

The following Update and Special Edition includes some details of modifications that happened in our skies in February, and other changes pending for end of March. So, this is a lengthy edition that touches on local, regional and federal advocacy efforts. While we can more simply say it’s still bad and we need relief! solutions continue to be work-in-progress, involving various stakeholders.

Please send any questions or suggestions about any of the info that follows to
UC Davis Aviation Noise and Emissions Symposium
At the end of February, the annual UC Davis Aviation Noise and Emissions (ANE) Symposium  took place in Long Beach CA. The ANE Symposium is attended by FAA, NASA, industry experts, and community groups. Sky Posse Palo Alto has participated since 2015, and this year it was notable that FAA and industry presentations reflected greater knowledge, awareness, and attention to address Nextgen precision based navigation (PBN) procedures which are known to cause concentration of impacts, and noise. FAA leadership presented on noise and emissions research being considered to inform policy (including Aircraft Noise and Sleep Disturbance), and on organizational enhancements to facilitate community involvement in PBN design. Community involvement in PBN matters greatly in both the short-term, and long-term (please see further below, for more on this topic). 

As PBN for noise reduction is being explored; the challenge was acknowledged by some of the speakers that while everyone would like to reintroduce dispersion, developing dispersion options with the new navigation system relies on political/policy issues about how communities and industry work out potential changes to reduce concentration. That this political/policy burden has so far been largely thrust onto affected communities, was not covered sufficiently, but FAA and some of their industry partners are looking to make progress. One area FAA is supporting is to refine analysis tools to evaluate solutions options with PBN routes. For example, a partnership in Boston FAA/MIT/Massport, has been evaluating a set of proposals to reduce noise with PBN, using the AEDT tool, in combination with ANOPPa NASA model to evaluate noise. What is learned and achieved in Boston could help many communities. So far, it appears that they have identified more options for Departures procedures and generally more work is needed to find solutions to address Arrivals. Lastly, the landmark Phoenix case was discussed in two presentations, one of them by Phoenix residents. Affected Phoenix neighborhoods worked closely with their City and Airport during the entire process; the City took the lead in the case, and four historic neighborhoods joined the legal challenge with their City.

We will share copies of some of the Symposium presentations as they become available.
Update on SFO Arrivals Procedures
On December 16th, 2017, we reported

"Appendix E in the November report notes that a change will be published on February 1, to the SERFER STAR procedure (southerly arrivals). The changes include that MENLO will be replaced by a new waypoint SIDBY (0.25nm east of Menlo) with crossing altitudes at SIDBY of "at or above 4000 feet" versus SERFR which currently targets Menlo with altitudes "at 4000." ....[page 125 of FAA Phase Two Report.]

Due to an FAA contractor charting error, instead of publishing the SERFER STAR, on February 1st, FAA was forced to temporarily direct Southerly traffic to the historical Big Sur route, and that was in effect until February 28. Please note that by directing traffic to the Big Sur route during February, FAA made a routing change, and it was not a PBN procedure change - which involves a different process than directing traffic to another route. Now, on March 1st, the previously published Serfer TWO procedure was reinstated, and on March 29th, Serfer STAR (called Serfer THREE) procedure will be published.

What do these recent changes mean?

It’s key to first distinguish how Nextgen has changed how planes fly, and how noise is influenced by these changes.

Nextgen navigation operates with what are called PBN Procedures and procedures determine HOW planes are flown on a particular or designated routeincluding at what altitudes planes follow procedureThe routes that planes use (often called “ground track”) refers to WHERE planes fly. Nextgen brought about changes in ground track (where) and new navigation procedures ("how" -lower altitudes and concentration). One way to note the “noise” difference between where planes fly and the how/PBN Procedures is that in 2013 before Nextgen we had the same routes, or ground tracks (and roughly similar amount of SFO operations) BUT no noise problems. Noise happened in 2014 -2015 when SFO operations actually had a downturn - it is the new Nextgen procedures (lower altitudes and concentration) which changed our environment.

As mentioned above, FAA has developed a plan to involve communities in PBN procedures designThis is a positive step.
PBN Community Involvement
Above slide was presented by FAA leadership during a Community Group Workshop at the Long Beach Symposium.

Locallyour communities in the Bay Area have not yet had involvement in PBN procedures, regarding noise. We understand that SERFER THREE was changed to resolve safety issues related to Class B airspace but the new altitudes, even if potentially higher than SERFER TWO were a “surprise."

Changes can be somewhat confusing - as mentioned, the February temporary change to the historical Big Sur ground track was a re-routing change, not a procedure change. Air Traffic Control can and regularly directs traffic over different routes but developing a procedure (the rules for the planes to follow) involves a process governed by FAA OrderJO 7100.41A involving the following:

FAA Order 7100.41A:
Performance Based Navigation (PBN) processing: This is the required process for all new and amended PBN procedures and/or routes, Area Navigation (RNAV)/Required Navigation Performance (RNP) Standard Instrument Departures (SIDs), RNAV Standard Terminal Arrivals (STARs) and RNAV routes.

(FAA Order 7100.41A breaks down the design and implementation process into 5 stages: this was relayed in the Phase Two Report - also reflected in the above FAA slide)

o Preliminary Activities: This includes the conduction of baseline analysis to identify expected benefits and develop conceptual procedures and/or routes for the proposed project.

o Design Activities: This includes the creation of a working group in order to design a procedures/route that meets the project goals and objectives. An environmental review is included in this stage.

o Development and Operational Preparation: The intent of this stage is to complete all pre-operational items necessary to implement the procedures and/or routes. This phase includes training, issuing notifications, automation, updating radar video maps, and processing documents. This phase ends when procedures and/or routes are submitted for publication.

o Implementation: The purpose of the implementation phase is to implement the procedures and/or routes as designed. This phase starts with confirmation by the FWG that all required pre-implementation activities have been completed and ends when the procedures and/or routes are published and implemented.

o Post-Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation: The purpose of the post- implementation monitoring and evaluation phase is to ensure that the new or amended procedures and/or routes perform as expected and meet the mission statement finalized during the design activities phase. Post implementation activities include collecting and analyzing data to ensure that safe and beneficial procedures and/or routes have been developed.

The SERFER modification, planned for March, is said to be running on the original FAA process that created SERFER in 2014.

As things move forward, we have some items that need Urgent attention:

  1. FAA has stated that they cannot raise the altitudes for a procedure on the Big Sur ground track. That is a problem because FAA does NOT have regional consensus for a procedure using 4000 feet at Menlo and surrounding heavily populated residential area. The Select Committee consensus was for a design with altitudes of 5000 feet and above. Sky Posse maintains that 5000 feet is not enough to address aircraft noise, no community should be overflown with heavy traffic below 7000 feet, but 4000 feet is unacceptable, unsustainable, and unnecessary. 
  2. Planes often are “vectored” (last minute re-routing decision) and taken "off" a procedure’s designated route; if altitudes are low, the impact of vectoring at low altitudes adds significant noise.
  3. The Select Committee unanimously voted to ask FAA to assess alternative waypoints (new points of entry for SFO arrivals). Recommendation 2.5R5 to address Menlo waypoint (including to assess waypoint FAITH, to use the full length of the Bay), but FAA could not endorse this specific suggestions due to conflicts with San Jose traffic. We need follow up for 2.5r5, to get help to refine the Committee asks, or to explore new alternatives because putting all southerly traffic over a single waypoint at 4000 feet is not a solution. For example, whereas planes from Miami, Houston, Phoenix, Austin used to fly over the Bay (using the FAITH waypoint), they now go over land. Overloading routes at low altitudes over people is unfair. Low altitudes for SFO traffic by the way also force lower altitudes for San Jose South Flow traffic.
  4. Early last year, shortly after the Select Committee ended, FAA advised that we would have community involvement to follow up on all of the Select Committee proposals, of which a SERFER replacement is important to several cities - the largest amount of traffic for the Mid-Peninsula. An FAA official committed in January 2017 at a meeting at SFO, to come back to work with existing or new roundtables to follow up on all Select Committee items. We have since heard conflicting information. In December 2017, we learned that Rep Jimmy Panetta and Supv John Leopold announced in Santa Cruz that there is an August implementation planned for southern arrivals, and that this would happen with little or no public input. In January 2018, at an SF Roundtable meeting, we asked NorCal TRACON (who are involved in procedures development), and they stated that they had not started any work with the proposed procedure for southern Arrivals. This week we asked SFO airport, and SFO stated they are unaware of any process. We expressed our concerns to Rep Eshoo, already in December, and her staff told us that they sent our questions to FAA, but we have not heard back.
  5. It has been a flaw in the public process that the discussions to address noise have focused much attention to ground track change - without significantcorrections to the procedures which brought about the noise. And not enough attention was given to exploring routes to develop procedures to significantly raise altitudes, and take planes over the water, which the Select Committee had the foresight to recommend for FAA to assess. Transparency issues are problematic if they result in a push to not reduce noise (only to move it), or to leave the most affected people without relief.
  6. SFO is investing in a new landing system - which was announced at the SF roundtable, with the intention to help Arrivals communitiesGBAS, which can provide features to allow steeper and curved paths. This will involve new procedures design, and for which SFO has mentioned that United Airlines will be a partner. As GBAS design activities happen, we must assure that these deliver on noise reduction to affected communities; communities need to be part of the design process, in particular the Preliminary Activities(PA) and Design Activities (DA) outlined above.
  7. Good design will depend on PA and DA, baseline analysis and sound "project goals" (no pun intended) employing refined modeling techniques. Metrics to measure success will also be more credible for it. The good news is that state of the art tools are available to do this right.
What we are looking at, AHEAD
Representation - Actions to help bring about meaningful relief rest on political leadership to support effective community involvement in PBN, and to lead in resolving the policy/political issues. A seat at a table is urgent. FAA is supporting community involvement. Our elected officials need to help make this work!

Design Criteria - Fly higherover wateravoid populated areas, and to respect the design criteria set by the Select Committee must be a priority.

Environmental Review This is the basis for a potential legal challenge & City Attorney must be alert to timing and opportunity for legal action, if and when necessary. Tracking changes, and understanding each of the procedure changes that impact Palo Alto should best be done with professional legal and technical follow up as was done in Phoenix.

Our elected officials are going to D.C. for the National League of Cities Conference March 11-14, and we understand their trip includes meeting with FAA. We will provide the above input to Council representatives, and ask that they to take our message, Palo Alto and Neighboring Communities need real relief!!

Thank you to all for the attention, if you made it to this part.

Report intrusive jet noise!

Use any of these methods: 

SFO PHONE 650.821.4736/Toll free 877.206.8290.
SFO traffic: click here for the link
SJC traffic: click her for the link
Other airportsclick here for more info

Spread the Word!
Share Sky Posse updates and this LINK with your neighbors to join the efforts to reduce jet noise. 

Thank you!

Sky Posse Palo Alto 

Submitted by Jim Wagner


Bean Counter Bernie said...

Thanks Sue Digre for all your hard work on airport noise and the strongly worded letters flying out of city hall!

Anonymous said...

Pay for your own double pane windows and front door installation you carpetbaggers.

Anonymous said...

Pacifica Commies will have none of that. They'll tack on a tax to make sure everyone else pays for their discomfort. It's what they do.