Airport Noise: Fact vs Fiction

Fact V. Fiction of living next to busy airports

So many times, at so many airports, pilots have heard unhappy residents’ reports of being told (and believing) misstatements on how little the airport would impact their new home, that pilots call these the Classic Mistakes of home buyers near airports. Believing these kinds of statements seem to be the answer to the question “why did you buy a home next to a busy airport if you are bothered by noise or don’t like aircraft flying overhead?” Well, perhaps you were not told the whole truth or something different than the truth. Perhaps you heard something you wanted to believe so you didn’t’ check it out. Please read below and see if you’ve heard any of these things before you commit to buying a new home in a traffic pattern…

Note: We need to be clear, a non-profit such as PAA shouldn’t need to post this type information. This is San Diego County’s and Carlsbad City’s job to prevent situations such as these below. However until they properly address these issues, we will continue to post here. We recommend you send letters to the City of Carlsbad Planning Department and the San Diego County Department of Public Works asking them to take responsibility for these issues and do something about them. Also, report misleading statements immediately and in writing to the California Department of Real Estate for enforcement. We would appreciate you copying the PAA on any formal correspondence.


If someone should happen to say to a prospective home buyer near the airport, one of the following statements, buyers should do their homework and get the facts from airport users, and residents who already live in the area…

This section was compiled from public testimonies, letters and conversations with residents living in the area, and uses Bressi Ranch as an example area…

FICTION-1: “…the airport isn’t that busy…”

FACT-1: Intensity: There IS a lot of aircraft ACTIVITY over this area today and it will increase. Palomar Airport is a VERY BUSY GA airport. In 1999 it had a peak of 292,000 operations–the busiest single runway airport in the nation. The airport is one of the busiest in the nation. Contributing factors in 1999 were 4 flight schools and increasing commercial aviation. The airport now has 3 flight schools, 2 flying clubs and 1 regularly scheduled airline services (FAA Part 121). In addition, Palomar is quickly becoming a major jet center for North County. Many of the factors that created peak airport demand are again in place and more… and it would not be unreasonable to expect air traffic to increase beyond the 1999 levels. There are and will be more aircraft every year.

FICTION-2: “…there won’t be much aircraft activity over these homes…”

FACT-2: TWO SIDED PATTERN: The FAA Air Traffic Controller use BOTH SIDES of the airport for traffic control and safety separation to prevent accidents at this busy airport. Safety is their concern, not overflight of certain areas because of public preference. These home sites ARE in/under the traffic pattern… During busy days, it is possible you may not hear one moment of silence during the day, as has been reported by residents well outside of the one mile zone.

FICTION-3: “…the aircraft pretty much stay on the other side of the airport…”

FACT-3: SOUTHERN ENTRY POINT: Traffic coming from the SOUTH frequently is required to use this area as directed by ATC to keep traffic safely separated. This is also called the La Costa Entry. See also Two- Sided Pattern.

FICTION-4: “…there was an FAA noise study done (Part 150) in 2003- 2004 and this area (Bressi) is outside the noise contours so you don’t really need to be concerned about a lot of noise…”

FACT-4: Noise study: The current Part 150 Noise Compatibility Study CNEL (Community Noise Equivalent Levels) noise contours will not include the Bressi Residential area because small GA aircraft are not very loud and their noise does not have a large effect on the average noise-contours as do larger aircraft, such as certain jets. Prospective home buyers should demand to see a “45dB noise contour” line map to get a better idea of the effects they’ll experience. Future residents in this area will probably be subject to aircraft noise very frequently and continuously–ALL-THE-TIME on nice days. Airport users have requested to the Part 150 study engineers that they include “45dB noise contour” lines in maps and release the maps to the public for review by concerned residents, especially since this is easy to do via the computer model that already exists.

FICTION-5: “…these homes are aren’t that close to the airport…”

FACT-5: Proximity: Bressi residential area homes ARE CLOSE to the airport–within one mile… Take a look at the aerials and see what you think.

FICTION-5: “…you’ve got noise-proofing and that’s enough…”

FACT-6: Noise proofing? Sound insulation doesn’t reduce the sound you’ll be subject to in your back yard or outside. Something to think about because Airport activity is especially high on the weekends and clear/sunny days when people want to be outdoors. As the skies get bluer and the thermometer goes up, so does the noise level and frequency of occurrence.

FICTION-7: “…these homes aren’t in the traffic pattern…”

FACT-7: False. They are. How low can they go? 200 feet above your head will not be uncommon. Know this: This is an active approach/departure area and is excluded from traffic pattern altitude restrictions. This area is in the takeoff and landing pattern.

FICTION-8: “…once you move in, you can complain and they’ll tell the aircraft to not fly over this area… or force them to fly quieter…”

FACT-8: Modify the traffic patterns for you? Create rules to lower noise for your area? Don’t be mislead. This airport is well protected by FAA Federal Grant Assurances (AIP Funds) and the “new” Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990 (ANCA), codified in federal law 49 section USC 47521 et seq. Any attempts to limit or restrict airport operations because of homes in this area will be vigorously opposed by government agencies as well as organized groups such as the AOPA, California Pilots Association, San Diego Area Aviation Council and local aviation groups. The laws are on the side of the airport.

FICTION-9: “…there’s a mandatory curfew at the airport so aircraft can’t fly at night…”

FACT-9: False, there is no mandatory curfew. There is a “voluntary” curfew. But aircraft can and do flight at night. Pilots need be able to fly at night. The 1990 Airport Capacity Act protects this airport from mandatory curfews. But San Diego International Airport has a curfew… Yes they do but that was grandfathered in because they already had a curfew a long time before the ANCA. San Diego was the first airport in the nation to have a mandatory curfew and this is what triggered the new law because the air transportation system’s capacity was being hurt, including medium and small airports. Additionally, early in the morning the prevailing winds frequently favor the use of Runway 06 (heading east), which causes large aircraft taking off early in the morning to depart over the Bressi area. Keep in mind there is no mandatory curfew and it would be virtually impossible to implement one. The laws are on the side of the airport and transportation.

FICTION-10: “…once you move in, you can complain to the city council and they’ll institute a mandatory curfew so aircraft can’t fly at night…” (or over your house, etc…)

FACT-10: 1. The City of Carlsbad has no jurisdiction over the airport because the airport is owned and operated by San Diego County. 2. The 1990 Airport Capacity Act protects this airport from mandatory curfews. 3. Aviation laws and restrictions are governed by the FAA and no other agency. 4. The past and recent FAA Part 150 studies show that noise levels do not and would not achieve the levels required to be able to even attempt to put any limits on aviation because of noise.

FICTION-11: “…you’ll sign a “Noise Impact Notification Area” (NINA) disclosure and that will explain it all to you. You’ll see, there’s no problem…”

FACT-11: False. Not only does it NOT explain it ALL to you, it leaves out some very important things your family needs to know. The “NINA disclosure” is not a full disclosure. The public has complained to the city and recommended much more for the Bressi residential area. About the NINA disclosure: This is the same form required for residents living more than three miles away from the airport. Residents well outside of the one-mile range from the airport frequently complain they were not told they were directly under an active airway. These residents frequently complain about noise issues. Residents and airport users have educated and informed local agencies such as SDCRAA and the City of Carlsbad of the California State and United States Federal guidelines–that “Avigation / Overflight Easements” are a minimum mitigation for this area to ensure families have a full understanding of both safety risks and noise issues caused by the new development near this busy airport. Additionally, this area is where air traffic merge and an air-to-ground accident can be predicted with scatter graphs. It has happened before on the opposite side of the airport. Can it happen here? Yes.

FICTION-12: “…the City would not have allowed homes to be built in this area if the homes weren’t compatible…”

FACT-12: False. The homes were approved by the City because of a technicality and without any aviation oversight because of an outdated 1994 CLUP Airport Influence Area map. That map incorrectly excluded the Bressi Residential area from any aviation, aviation safety oversight, and aviation regulatory processes of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, California Department Of Transportation Division of Aeronautics and the Federal Aviation Administration. The city doesn’t think this is a problem.

FICTION-13: “…there’s nothing the City can do about it (making better disclosure, avigation easements…), they have their hands tied…”

FACT-13: That’s probably incorrect. A city can always do something in the interest of health and welfare of the community. Building new residential developments next to a high intensity airport seems to be an obvious issue. How should the city operate and decide on issues? Perhaps for the public benefit. See the City’s Mission, Vision and Values statement for it’s guiding principles. A recent sampling of public opinion from people who have seen the development, and are not pilots, have given typical responses such as: “…how did they get that approved…”, “…what were they thinking…”, and “…it’s a time-bomb…”.

FICTION-14: “…my friend is an airline pilot/military pilot/works for the FAA/etc… and he/she/they said that you can have the airport/pilots/city/county/state/FAA.. just insert whatever would make you happy here and so that will fix the noise problem for you then everything will be fine.”

FACT-14: Most people working in aviation, be it pilot, air traffic controller, administrator, etc. know very little about airport land use laws, land regulations and planning guidelines for land not inside the airport-proper. These folks may feel great by doing you a favor and acting as an expert but their advice can create a false sense of hope and be very misleading.

FICTION-15: “…a real-estate person commented that if / “when they build the new international airport…” at insert-location-here then they insert- whatever-words-are-good-enough-for- you-here e.g. could/can/will close Palomar Airport… and so that will fix the noise problem for you and then everything will be fine.”

FACT-15: Wow. What a story. That’s pretty inventive, and this would be a misleading statement. Report these kinds of comments and the person that said them to you to the California Department of Real Estate in writing for disciplinary action (see link near top of page). This report came from a member that visited the Bressi Ranch sales office in June 2005.

Committee (PAAC) approved some common sense recommendations to the SD Count Board of Supervisors (again) on August 19, 2004 in Carlsbad CA. It was not forwarded to the supervisors for a decision. This resolution has apparently been “lost” by the PAAC.

Non-fixed wing aircraft: The Bressi area is one of the main helicopter departure/approach paths. Helicopters must fly very low over the Bressi area all day long for separation from fixed wing aircraft working the same airspace. You will probably feel like you always hear helicopters. And they will be close–200ft above you will not be uncommon.

The airspace around Palomar airport is very well controlled and very well regulated by the FAA. Once you move in and you are not happy about aircraft and noise, make the decision to do something about it now. You will always have one of two things you can do about your situation:

1. Accept it and perhaps even become part of the airport community. You don’t need to be a pilot to be involved and enjoy aviation. Join the airport association, make friends, meet new people and be introduced to aviation at the airport. There are plenty of folks who will be happy to introduce you to aviation.

2. Exercise your right of free will and make a positive decision to move to a different location. Just as you made a free will decision to move here in the first place, you are not forced to remain in the area. A vast majority of homes in the San Diego area are not near airports or active low-level airways. You should consider relocating to one of those areas rather than stay near an airport and be unhappy about it.

Misleading Home Selling Statements
Be part of the solution…

Over the years and to this day, Palomar Airport and its officials continue to hear public testimony about how some Real Estate professionals mislead homebuyers about the potential impacts of the airport on living nearby. For example, Michael Grim, Senior Planner of the Carlsbad Planning Department, testified at a spring 2005 Palomar Airport Advisory Committee meeting that it was reported to him along with a hand-out flier, that the nearby Bressi Ranch sale office was saying to its prospects that the airport was a lazy part-time airport. They also had write-ups to that effect. After visiting the sales office he also found the airport notice signs were in rear locations and decorative plants were covering them. Additionally it has been reported that salespeople have been instructed when driving prospects to the development to avoid using Palomar Airport Road where the airport/air traffic activity is obvious, and to bring them during the airport’s slower times.

If you feel you have been misled about the airport by anyone with a financial interest selling a home anywhere in the vicinity of the airport (Real Estate professional or a homeowner selling their home), please report your experience immediately to the California Department of Real Estate for enforcement. On that page please go to Consumers, DRE Assistance, Filing a Complaint with The DRE. OR Swift enforcement by the proper authority is highly recommended.