Surf Air Riding Out Noise Complaints


Whoever said success is its own reward probably wasn’t talking about the aviation business and the folks who run Surf Air know that all too well. The company has made a go out of a potentially risky membership business model offering patrons an “all-you-can-fly” package for $1,950 a month in Pilatus PC-12s. They picked the toney San Francisco suburb of San Carlos as a base and were soon filling the turboprops with prosperous Silicon Valley customers heading for destinations like Las Vegas, L.A. and Napa. But as Surf Air grew, so did complaints from local residents angered at the noise being generated at their formerly sleepy airport. A public meeting has been called for Aug. 16 in which San Mateo County officials will explain why it’s not their fault.

Surf Air started with a handful of customers and a few airplanes and was operating about three flights a day to begin with. However, the business caught on and now they’re averaging more than 20 flights a day and a lot more than that during peak times. The company recently started a European operation. “When Surf Air came in, we were surprised that you could have a commercial operation at the airport,” San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsely told the San Jose Mercury News. “We talked with the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) about, how did this happen?” Horsley said. “This is a general aviation airport. How was a scheduled airline able to operate at a general aviation airport? What the FAA said was, they were only concerned about safety in the air. They have no rules about noise.” So, the stewards of San Mateo have scheduled Wednesday’s meeting with apparently one goal in mind. “I think they [local residents] think we have a lot more power than we do. We do own the land, but not the air space,” Horsley said.