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Some residents have railed against the update to McClellan-Palomar Airport, concerned about noise and air pollution and fears the county is attempting to turn the airport into a John Wayne Airport (Orange County) replica. Photo by Steve Puterski
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Change in flight paths could result in less noise, fuel burned

SOLANA BEACH — Dozens of residents from San Diego County converged at an elementary school last week for an open house regarding Southern California flight paths hosted by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The FAA released its findings for its Southern California Metroplex Project, also known as NextGen, which is nearly five years in the making and expected to improve safety and efficiency based on satellite navigation, according to Public Affairs Manager Ian Gregor.

Last week’s presentation covered airports at Camp Pendleton, Carlsbad and San Diego County, among others. Much of Carlsbad’s new routes will commence March 2 and several others will come online April 27.

However, numerous Carlsbad residents came to the presentation to research the ongoing issues with Palomar-McClellan Airport and its possible expansion.

San Diego County, which oversees the airport, did not have any input into the FAA’s findings and no representatives from the county were present last week.

According to Shawn Kozica, an air traffic controller with the FAA, the report does not have any impact on possible extension or expansion in Carlsbad. Instead, the new data provides more streamlined service for aircraft on a north and northwest flight path just west of Camp Pendleton.

He said the inbound landing routes will remain the same from the base, but change over the Pacific Ocean as aircraft will cross over Catalina Island and turn north missing the greater Los Angeles area over land.

Residents throughout San Diego County appeared at a Federal Aviation Administration regarding its Southern California Metroplex Project last week in Solana Beach. Photo by Steve Puterski
Residents throughout San Diego County appeared at a Federal Aviation Administration regarding its Southern California Metroplex Project last week in Solana Beach. Photo by Steve Puterski

Gregor, meanwhile, said the new satellite technology is more reliable than its predecessor. In short, it is like an upgrade from analog to digital.

“Conventional air routes are built on ground-based navigation aids, such as beacons,” he added. “These navigation aids are physically planted in the ground, which limits available flight paths. Satellite technology, by contrast, allows us to build more direct routes as well as routes that are automatically separated from one another. This creates a more efficient system and reduces pilot-controller communications.”

The Southern California project is one of 14 the FAA is implementing throughout the country.

However, the project has come under scrutiny and at least two federal lawsuits have been filed. The city of Phoenix filed suit in 2015, according to USA Today, and the Los Angeles Times reported in October 2016 of a lawsuit filed by Culver City and Newport Beach.

Regardless, Gregor said the FAA research allows for better efficiency.

He said satellite technology creates efficient climbs and descents without the level-offs associated with conventional routes. In other words, a staircase where a plane climbs, levels, climbs and levels until it reaches its cruising altitude.

On the arrival side, Gregor continued, the new technology calls for descents in which aircraft essentially glide down on idle or near-idle power to their final approaches. “Because engines aren’t spooling up and air brakes aren’t being deployed, the plane makes less noise,” he explained. “And gliding down on idle power means less fuel is burned, which in turn means fewer CO2 (carbon dioxide) is being released into the environment.”

However, some Carlsbad residents were wary of the new regulations and how it would affect the ongoing battle between residents, the city and county over plans to extend, or expand, depending on the point of view, the runway in Carlsbad.

“The FAA keeps saying they have solved the problem and they never have,” said Carlsbad resident Graham Thomley. “They are turning Carlsbad into John Wayne Airport.”

Throughout the SoCal Metroplex project area, the vast majority of new routes will have aircraft flying within the areas where they previously flew.

“During our environmental analysis for this project, we modeled noise at about 300,000 locations throughout Southern California,” Gregor said. “Our modeling found that some areas will experience slight noise decreases, some will experience slight noise increases, and some will experience no changes.”

The Metroplex website has Google Earth features to allow residents to look up projected noise right down to the neighborhood level, as well as current and future flight tracks.


Suzanne Hume October 20, 2017 at 11:42 am

The fact is the exhaust of planes is deadly whether the plane is taking off or cruising. Fine particles in the air resulting in lung cancer and respiratory illnesses. More deaths per year are caused by these fine particles than in plane crashes. It is a real problem! More than the noise – it’s the horrible pollution – putting children and families at risk. To the person stating that you chose to live here – children do not make the choice of where they live and yet were subjected to dangerous pollution. Residents should be informed of what type of fuel the Aircrafts are using! A more expensive fuel- about 5 cent increase Per gallon-filters out more sulfur and dangerous pollutants – but is not a silver bullet. The question people should be asking is how are we going to regulate the type of fuel used and how can we protect children and families. Dangerous particles can float to the air 6000 miles east. Noise is inconvenient particles in the air are deadly. Please get the facts. You can read the article below… will post information in the future. Get informed and stand up!

Traveler McJetface February 10, 2017 at 8:22 am

Complainers gonna complain. The airport is far fewer take offs and landings than it once did, so noise is down. Are people happy and thankful? Of course not. You chose to live near an airport. Since you made that choice, I-5 carries more traffic, and is about to be expanded. El Camino Real carries more traffic. La Costa Avenue carries more traffic. All of our infrastructure has grown over time, and so should the airport.

We lost commercial flight service because the regional affiliates to the big airlines are phasing out prop planes in favor of regional jets, which the current runway cannot support. Lengthen the runway, and reestablish regional jet service to major connecting hubs: LAX, San Fran, San Jose, Phoenix, Denver, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Dallas, Houston. If we had small jet service to those hubs, you could easily connect to anywhere on the globe. Looking forward to it.

JBk February 9, 2017 at 5:39 pm

I get the “falling bombs” sound in Coastal Oceanside. It is really irritating. The noise level is not as important as the type of noise. Please remove the “falling bombs” sound. Oceanside can also be a vocal minority so please don’t dump on us.

jmac February 9, 2017 at 12:25 am

La Costa, La Costa…Nobody cares. What are you special? Just because you think you are all entitled doesn’t make you any different than the rest of Carlsbad. Vocal minority. Really, you guys chose to live in the Carlsbad “burbs”.

Kg February 8, 2017 at 6:56 am

Agreed on the constant planes buzzing my roof in La Costa. I’ve failed complaints, but nothing really comes of it.

They also try to say a longer runway will decrease flight noise because they’ll be able to get up to speed on the runway (versus in the air), however they don’t talk about the fact that means larger more powerful noisier Jets will be allowed to land take off – they sidestep that issue.

Presently the noise the engine noise at some of these Jets make on take off is pretty obnoxious.

And the worst part about it all is as a la costa residence, I can’t even use the airport because it doesn’t do anything we need it to do so it’s pretty pointless as a resident because I can’t really go anywhere with “our” Airport.

Don February 7, 2017 at 5:45 pm

All I know is that I live near La Costa and I have f—in planes buzzing my roof all the time and this never used to happen. I’m sick of it and I can’t imagine how anything they’re proposing is going to make things any better. The very idea of making the semantic Orwellian argument that it’s NOT an expansion but an extension just screams corruption at the most basic level. Once again our elected officials are trying to pull a fast one on us and are looking out for the interests of their wealthy donors above all else. Time to take a line from the movie Network…”I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” We need more people screaming this at the top of their lungs at meetings and, if necessary, in the streets or at the airport itself.

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