Finally, Noise, Not Size, Dictates Curfew At San Jose

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It would appear that the long-standing battle over curfews at Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport may be over, at least for now. In an arguably more sensible agreement between the city and the FAA, noise -- not size -- will determine which aircraft can use the airport between 11:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. A previous city bylaw banned anything larger than 75,000 pounds from using the airport in the wee hours, but owners of large but quiet aircraft claimed the law was arbitrary and discriminatory. On the heels of Larry Ellison's court battle at the airport, a court case brought by the owner of the airplane that transports the San Jose SaberCats arena football team, scheduled to be heard in three weeks, sparked the new rules. Under the new regulations, any airplane that puts out 89 decibels or less (about the same as a lawnmower) will be able to come and go at will. The FAA determines the noise level by measuring it at various distances and also takes into consideration its duration. Anyone caught busting the 89-decibel limit will face a $2,500 fine. The old regulation wasn't really working anyway. Since Oracle chief Larry Ellison successfully challenged the law in court several years ago, a growing number of aircraft have been getting exemptions. City official acknowledge the new rules might lead to increased late-night traffic but Mayor Ron Gonzales noted the compromise "prevents the possible elimination of our curfew."