Proposed San Carlos Airport Ordinance Targets Surf Air, Excludes Ellison

  • E-Mail this Article
  • View Printable Article
  • Text size:

    • A
    • A
    • A

Angered by noise from Pilatus PC-12s operated by Surf Air, residents of San Mateo county have taken a new tack in their fight to shut down the operation. A proposed curfew ordinance, drafted by the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, would limit any operator to one takeoff and one landing of a “noisy airplane” between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. and prohibit all operations after 9 p.m. In a thinly veiled attempt to target Surf Air’s PC-12 specifically, the definition of “noisy airplane” is one whose FAA certificated noise level exceeds 74.5 dB. There are several PC-12 configurations, but the quietest one is rated at 74.6 dB. Surf Air has 19 departures from San Carlos on an average day. Five of those flights depart after 6 p.m. If a judge were to decide that the ordinance was specifically targeted at Surf Air that may make it illegal under a federal law prohibiting municipalities from enacting noise ordinances that are “unjustly discriminatory.”

Larry Ellison famously battled the City of San Jose over a curfew that prevented him from landing his Gulfstream V at San Jose International after 11:30 p.m. on the grounds that a restriction based on aircraft weight was “unjustly discriminatory.” He won. The proposed San Carlos ordinance has an exclusion for jet aircraft and helicopters regardless of noise. Mr. Ellison's flight operations company, Wing and a Prayer, has a prominent hangar on the field housing a smaller jet, which would be exempt from the noise ordinance and free to operate at night. Oracle Corp is the largest employer in San Mateo County with its headquarters located less than a mile from San Carlos Airport. The proposed ordinance also excludes government, medivac, emergency and pilot proficiency operations.

Update: A previous version of this article attributed information to an employee of the San Mateo County Supervisors. That employee felt the attributed information mischaracterized his statement. AVweb volunteered to remove that text to ensure the factual accuracy of the article.

Photo credit: Richard Silagi, Surf Air Pilatus PC-12NG N809SA landing at KSQL on December 2, 2014

Comments (2)

Sounds like Surf Air needs to lease the use of some old Sabreliners for a while ;) Seriously though, I think that normal conversation levels run around the 70 - 76 dB range. So apparently Surf Air has become someone's kicking dog - most likely for reasons other than "noisy airplanes".

Posted by: John Nevils | March 6, 2017 7:22 AM    Report this comment

Thanks for the coverage of this issue. I think it's important to emphasize that this ordinance, clearly intended to target Surf Air, would also affect MANY general aviation aircraft. All Cirrus models, Beech Bonanzas, Piper Arrow, Cherokee Six, Saratoga, Malibu/Mirage, Cessna 206 and 210, and the list goes on and on. None of these aircraft would be allowed to depart or even arrive at the airport after 9pm, or before 6am.

I don't think there's a lot of traffic at the airport after 9pm, apart from aircraft that are based there returning from a trip. Many such flights approach the airport from the east, crossing the San Francisco Bay and overlying primarily industrial areas. Even those flights would be prohibited by this ordinance.

I'm in favor of being a good neighbor, but that's a 2-way street. The airport has been in this location for decades. Obviously something changed when SurfAir began operating there. Let's find a solution that addresses the new issue without unfairly and unnecessarily restricting the airport's tenants and users, who are also residents and taxpayers in the county. There's already a new procedure that allows SurfAir to avoid overflying Atherton (the city whose residents complained and started this process), unless they have to fly the instrument approach. But the County seems determined to forge ahead anyway.

Posted by: MICHAEL KOBB | March 6, 2017 7:55 AM    Report this comment

Add your comments

Log In

You must be logged in to comment

Forgot password?


Enter your information below to begin your FREE registration