Airplane Noise and NextGen
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Airplane Noise and NextGen
I moved to Foster City in 1992 with the knowledge that it is in the path of airplanes landing in SFO. Back then, the airplanes were required to fly over the bay for the most part during their approach from Foster City to SFO. I remember we had a noise complaint hotline on our refrigerator to call when an airplane flew over homes with excessive noise. In the mid to late nineties, the issue seemed to have been resolved until early last year when some neighborhoods in Foster City started experiencing more planes flying over them at lower altitude and louder noise. So what happened? The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the regulatory government agency responsible for air traffic, introduced NextGen.

NextGen is a satellite-based air traffic control system that shifted the U.S. ground-based air traffic control system to a satellite-based system: GPS. The project in theory was supposed to cut costs by using GPS technology to save time, fuel and money, as well as curb traffic delays. NextGen’s new arrival procedures mandate pilots turn at lower altitudes, much closer to the arrival points. The very design of NextGen focuses routes sharply onto thin lines. Thus, traffic that was previously dispersed over many miles of slightly randomized routes is now focused over the same area.  

In January 2016, I was appointed by Mayor Perez to represent Foster City on the SFO Community Roundtable to replace past Councilmember Okamoto. The Airport/Community Roundtable was established in 1981 as a voluntary committee to address community noise impacts from aircraft operations at San Francisco International Airport (SFO). The Roundtable monitors a performance-based noise mitigation program implemented by airport staff, interprets community concerns and attempts to achieve noise mitigation through a cooperative sharing of authority among the aviation industry, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), SFO management and local government.

The authority to control aircraft in flight and on the ground is vested exclusively in the FAA. The FAA, however, cannot control the number of flights or the time of day of aircraft operations. Federal law preempts any local government agency from implementing any action that is intended to control the routes of aircraft in flight. Neither the Roundtable, local elected officials nor airport management can control the routes of aircraft in flight or on the ground.

The implementation of NextGen has negatively impacted many communities who are voicing their concerns regarding the impact of airplane noise on their health and quality of life. Responding to the complaints from the SFO Community Roundtable and pressure from Representatives Jackie Speier, Anna Eshoo, and Sam Farr, the FAA has launched an initiative to address the concerns of the counties of Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, San Mateo and San Francisco. If you have been experiencing an increase in airplane noise, I ask that you lodge complaints directly with SFO Noise Abatement Office either by filing a complaint online at, by calling 650-821-4736, or by emailing Your complaint will become part of the official record and official documentation tracked by the FAA. Furthermore, I would like to hear directly from you via email at as to how your quality of life has been impacted by the noise. I intend to use excerpts from your emails to share with the Committee and the FAA.

I welcome your thoughts and comments. You can reach me at or 650-286-3503. 

Council Corner

April 06, 2016
Airplane Noise and NextGen

City Hall - 610 Foster City Blvd.
Foster City, CA 94404
(650) 286-3200