On March 5, 2015, the FAA activated the first phase of the “NextGen” air traffic control system in the bay area.
Within a few hours, the noise abatement office at SFO was unable to handle the volume of calls.
Within a few days, the number of complaints at the SFO web site went up by a factor of 100 (and did so again since then!)
Within a few weeks, residents were mobilizing, spearheaded by organizations such as Save our Skies Santa Cruz.
Within a few months, citizen projects such as jet noise reporting, noise monitoring, and air traffic monitoring were created.
Clearly, something about the switch-over to the NextGen system did not go as planned….
So what went wrong?
The answer is, to our great relief: “nothing that can’t be fixed“.
The FAA has made a number of changes that were perceived to be harmless, but in fact had a devastating effect on the communities, and caused a large amount of heartache to residents. It’s important to stress that in the global scheme of things, those changes that caused the most amount of grief are insignificant to the FAA. This is part of why there were thought to be harmless, but as it turned out, changes that are insignificant to airplanes flying at 250 knots are very significant to the people below.
The good news is that the FAA has heard the outcry (Thanks in no small part to the efforts of the congressional offices of Rep. Eshoo and Farr) and is willing to consider fixes, including a re-creation, to the greatest possible extent, of the flight procedures that existed before the NextGen change-over, plus added mitigations where possible.
We have been working on exactly that: Proposing modification to the new “NextGen” procedures that recreate the environment that existed before March 5, 2015, and where possible, improve upon it.