Wonacott’s Flight Tracker showed nighttime aircraft flying at 295 degrees, not 290.
  • Wonacott’s Flight Tracker showed nighttime aircraft flying at 295 degrees, not 290.
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Ever since Lindbergh Field was dedicated in 1928, there have been outcries over noisy aircraft over San Diego neighborhoods. But a new rapprochement between recently tone deaf aviation officials and irritated residents in the flight paths may now be in the offing. After two years of Federal Aviation Administration missteps in implementing new flight patterns, the agency and the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority have hired consultants to work with local residents to determine changes to alleviate some of the latest noise problems.

Flights going west, flights heading east

As the residents and the consultants work together, the FAA has a word of warning. No change shall be accepted that causes noise to neighborhoods that haven’t yet been hearing it. The FAA might have thought to set the example.

“Suddenly, the planes were flying low over the house and over the yard, and not just a little bit."

“We bought and moved into our La Mesa home in June 2015,” says Marie Knox, “and there weren’t any commercial airliners that we could hear or see over or near the house. We could see them out our front window, a good distance south, going in to land, but could barely hear them. Then, in November of last year, the week of Thanksgiving, everything changed overnight.

Marie Knox: "It was an assault."

“Suddenly, the planes were flying low over the house and over the yard, and not just a little bit. It was an assault. At first, my husband, Scott, thought it must have been due to the heavy travel week. He worked days and did not hear what I did. But on Wednesday morning he was home and went out to get the paper at the bottom of the stairs leading to our front door and, as he was coming back up, a [Boeing] 737 blew over the house. He couldn’t believe how abrupt and low and loud it was.

Casey Schnoor: “My Poiint Loma neighbors starting talking.”

“He came into the house and, without saying anything to me, he called the La Mesa police and said we just had an incident, that there was something wrong. He told them the plane was so low he thought it was going to hit the house. ‘It is unsafe,’ he told them, and wanted to know what was going on.”

Marilyn Jasniuk and Vicki Bodach of South Mission Beach. “It starts at 6:30.”

The police told Knox they had heard a few other such reports but that the Federal Aviation Administration was the place to get answers. So Knox called the FAA in Miramar and spoke to someone in its Flight Standards Office who stated right off that she didn’t own the airspace above her home. “He also told me the plane didn’t do anything wrong,” she says, “and that anything above 1000 feet was legal. The trouble is that we live on a 500-foot ridge.”

Gary Wonacott: aircraft are supposed to fly along San Diego River channel.

Knox next spoke to Sjohnna Knack from the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority. What Knox was hearing, Knack replied, was due to a change in flight paths resulting from a new satellite navigation system the FAA was installing. “We all want it to go back to the way it was before,” said Knack, “but that’s not going to happen.”

Chris McCann: “I told Knack her claim about Miramar was a lie.”

“I then realized that I needed to educate myself,” says Knox. “So I started researching, and the first thing I discovered was that all over the U.S. people are suffering from the noise and starting to fight back. Then I saw that it had started in San Diego, too, two years earlier.”

Knox figured that not all of her neighbors would react as strongly against the noise as she did. When she brought the issue up on Nextdoor.com, a number of them said they paid it hardly any attention and others were fully aware of it but were not bothered. Quite a few were just as angry about it as she was. But one man, says Knox, told her to keep her mouth shut about it. She thought he might have been afraid public exposure would drag down property values in the area.


It was in late spring, 2015, that San Diego County began to learn the implications of satellite navigation as the future of its airspace. The region’s air traffic is now governed by the Southern California Metroplex, one of a multitude of similar systems that the FAA is establishing across the U.S. to make air travel more efficient. Global positioning technology has taken the place of ground and radar based ping-ponging of planes across the country.

“The FAA must have published a little something in the Union-Tribune that gave their official notice, but the announcement largely went undiscovered,” says Casey Schnoor, a leading Point Loma aircraft noise activist. “They then gave their public presentation in Barrio Logan about a plan that will have impacts immediately around the circumference of Lindbergh Field, communities such as Loma Portal, Ocean Beach, Mission Beach, Mission Hills, and Hillcrest.”

In August that summer, Schnoor and other Point Loma residents became aware that one of the proposals in the plan was to change a departure route that would affect the peninsula. The FAA was planning to remove a waypoint called LOWMA on Point Loma’s southern tip. Waypoints are virtual locations in the air that commercial jet aircraft are required to fly around as part of their formal departure routes.

“The idea of removing that waypoint got our attention,” Schnoor tells me, “because now aircraft heading east were going to be free, at their own discretion, to turn back over Point Loma, the Cabrillo National Monument, Fort Rosecrans, the Wooded Area and Sunset Cliffs.

At that time, Schnoor says he began a six-month immersion into everything airport noise. “Each community has a different set of issues,” he tells me.

“My Point Loma neighbors started talking, too, and eventually, I put a petition on Change.org that said the FAA plan wasn’t right and that it had to be changed. My gut told me we’d get 300 to 500 signatures; we got 3500 and counting. The petition prompted the FAA to push the Airport Authority to hold a public meeting at Liberty Station on a hot summer night, close to 90 degrees in temperature. Estimates were that 800 to 1000 people turned up in the meeting hall that night on very short notice.”

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Comments

Herkimer Aug. 3, 2018 @ 7:55 a.m.

My wife and I have lived on the southwest slope of Mt. Helix, half way to the summit for 20 years. In normal weather, flights originating from the north and northwest of San Diego have used a landing approach that typically passes near or directly over our house. In fact, we've been on a couple of flights from the northwest when on approach, we were able to clearly recognize our house down below. There are many safety and ecological concerns living in the center of a large urban population for sure...The idiotic I-8/125 interchange, as an example. Commercial flights over La Mesa...not so much.

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Visduh Aug. 6, 2018 @ 9:58 a.m.

There are two factors that work against noise control. First is that the airport is located in the wrong sort of area. That's been known for, oh, sixty years, but that hasn't kept it from being expanded to near saturation, and there are now plans afoot to replace Terminal 1 with a new facility (which is sorely needed) that will be far larger than now. So, every time there is new construction it makes a move elsewhere less likely. The location makes it impossible to really separate air traffic from the densest parts of the city.

Then there's the fact that the airport is too small, with only one runway. There are airports with multiple runways that only handle a fraction of the traffic going into and out of SAN. Unless the Marine Corps is willing go give up its MCRD, there's no place to put another runway, and hence all the traffic funnels through that single runway. There is no prospect for fewer flights as long as San Diego remains a major tourist destination.

Add in an arrogant and uncommunicative federal agency, the FAA, and you have the recipe for noise, frustration, and angry residents. I really do feel for you guys!

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RennyBest Aug. 7, 2018 @ 7:14 a.m.

Sjohnna Knack, SD Airport Noise Mitigation staffer, is the Sarah Huckabee Sanders of the Airport Authority.

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WaldoPepper Aug. 8, 2018 @ 9:43 a.m.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Schnoor is quoted: "The negotiations described in the letter led eventually to Air Traffic Control creating a gate, “allegedly by putting red stickies on the radar screens of its controllers,” says Schnoor. “I never saw them, but that’s what Byron Wear told me. The agreement said that, for westerly departures, the aircraft were required to go out the gate established by two of the dots before starting their turns.” For flights east, the planes would then fly south to a spot indicated by a third red dot before turning east over Fort Rosecrans, thus avoiding residential neighborhoods to its north.

The agreement was honored for close to seven years. “It created the single ‘gate’ to fly through,” says Schnoor. An October 2000 California State Audit of the airport described it. “The new procedures [directed] aircraft 1.5 miles west of the shoreline before turning south,” stated the audit. “Aircraft [were] directed so they do not cross Point Loma until as far south as Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. The FAA representatives … also made assurances that Lindbergh Field air traffic controllers direct departing aircraft to a 275- or 290-degree heading when cleared for takeoff.” ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Complete and total fabrications by someone, it's clear that Wear and Schnoor have never read the Bilbray letter. No red "stickies" ever existed, no gates were created, no agreement to only use a 275° or 290° heading was ever made.

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dwbat Aug. 8, 2018 @ 11:42 a.m.

From what I've heard, there have been no complaints ever from "residents" at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. ;-)

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