IS THIS THE RIGHT TIME TO SETTLE THE LAWSUIT WITH THE AIRPORT AUTHORITY?

To put the issue in context, I will provide a little history. Lindbergh Field as of several months ago was rapidly converging on saturation or capacity of operations for the one runway airport. Once at capacity, there is no way to continue to increase fees unless the fee rates are increased. There is, however, another way that airports at capacity have increased their revenues not directly related to airport flight operations. They have enhanced their terminals adding high end tax free shops, from which they can derive rent. In 2018, the San Diego County Airport Authority (SDCAA) produced a financial report quantifying the benefits to the San Diego region, and attached to the report are two other reports providing examples where other international airports at capacity have made substantial income from their shops. So, it would seem that the Terminal 1 expansion perhaps has more to do with increasing SDCRAA revenues in out-years than improving the passenger experience. While I don't recall that the Terminal 1 expansion includes adding capability for international gates and services, it seems reasonable to assume that you would require international service to justify tax free purchases.


The Airport Authority published two Draft Environmental Impact Reports associated with the Terminal 1 expansion. The first one was rejected by virtually every organization in San Diego mainly based on the lack of ground transportation planning that was included, but it also opened the door for criticism of the Airport Authority consultant projections of future operations and the anticipated date when the airport would reach capacity. The gross underestimate of future operations also meant that future noise was grossly underestimated.


The AA consultant in the second DEIR still had many flaws in it that were addressed in comments from several different reviewers, including me. One of the main problems was that the consultants acknowledged substantial increases in noise in the future and a growth in the number of people living in the 65 dB CNEL, but they claimed that there were no ways to mitigate the noise growth on the populations surrounding the airport. They simply ignored a number of proposals from the public.


As a result, a group called Quiet Skies San Diego filed a lawsuit against the SDCRAA claiming that that the Airport Authority had not addressed the flaws in the study. The lawsuit would have the effect of potentially holding up the project. In a recent letter to the San Diego Union Tribune editor, a Dr. Mathew Price, a member of the Quiet Skies San Diego group made reference to an attempt by the group to settle the lawsuit several months ago, but the conditions were rejected by the Airport Authority. A proposal to temporarily suspend the lawsuit at that time was also rejected by the Airport Authority.


Now jump forward to the present. The graph below does not show completely how the situation has changed at Lindbergh. While the number of operations has decreased drastically, so has the load factor (percent of seats being used on a plane) The Airport Authority may now be more interested in settling. There is still much information that we are waiting for that could have a direct bearing on the outcome for the negotiations. For example:


1. I filed a complaint with the FAA outlining multiple concerns regarding the procedures used by the Airport Authority, the City of San Diego and the FAA to makes changes to the departures tracks towards Mission Beach, but also affecting noise levels in Pacific Beach and La Jolla.

2. I filed a public records request at the Airport Authority for any communications using terms like NEPA.

3. The Congress mandated that the FAA perform a number of studies that could directly affect noise issues at Lindbergh Field. These include validity of the 65 dB CNEL for 17 hour day at Lindbergh, the dependence on this one criterion for determining eligibility for soundproofing and others.


In addition, there is other information that could be very relevant to Lindbergh coming from United Airlines tests at John Wayne Airport. John Wayne, though smaller than Lindbergh, has a similar problem with residential dwellings in the departure path. The airlines at JWA have adopted a departure procedure that reduces the noise over the residential areas by backing off on the thrust, which can be seen by a decrease in the vertical speed. There are a total of seven pictures, with three from JWA and four from Lindbergh.

What you are looking at in these pictures are the location of the aircraft and its vertical speed. Vertical speed is an indication of thrust levels and therefore noise levels. The pictures show the following


1. JWA just after takeoff, the vertical speed is 3,328 fpm, relatively high and therefore causing substantial noise.

2. JWA about halfway to the ocean. It appears that there are residential areas below. The vertical speed is 1,344 fpm, down about 60 percent from thrust directly after takeoff.

3. JWA showing the aircraft substantially beyond the land mass and residential areas; the vertical speed/thrust maintains a relatively low value of 960 fpm, and therefore maintains low noise well out into the ocean.

4. Lindbergh shows right after takeoff with a thrust level that is about the same as the initial thrust at JWA.

5. Lindbergh showing the aircraft over Midway with a substantially reduced vertical speed, therefore thrust, and therefore noise level.

6. Almost immediately after passing over Midway, the aircraft vertical speed increases to 2,816 fpm as it passes over my house in Mission Beach.

7. In spite of the fact that aircraft is not that far off-shore, the vertical speed is increased to a whopping 4,416 fpm. While some might argue that the largest noise levels are in front of the aircraft because of Doppler effect, this increase in thrust will definitely increase noise in Mission Beach, Pacific Beach, Bird Rock and La Jolla.


All of these aircraft will increase their thrust until they reach a specified speed of 300 mph, at which point, they must back-off on thrust to maintain a constant velocity until a specified altitude is reached. So, it seems like increasing the thrust prior to reaching Mission Beach causes an unnecessary noise level. There does not seem to be any reason why the lower thrust levels cannot be maintained until the aircraft are well past the land mass.


Picture 1

Picture 2


Picture 3

Picture 4

Picture 5

Picture 6

Picture 7


We need to find out more information from JWA before proceeding with negotiations with the Airport Authority.


There are two major issues with PADRZ and the nighttime noise abatement agreement. First, how did the nighttime agreement happen? Cannot PADRZ be moved south and still maintain the 15 degree spacing with ZZOOO, and why is the Airport Authority showing that the nighttime departure 290 path has merged with the PADRZ?


First, many decades ago, the nighttime noise abatement agreement was implemented. This moved all of the aircraft currently on ZZOOO post 10 pm to a 290 degree vector departure. This had the effect of decreasing noise over OB by about 10 dB and increasing it in Mission Beach by a substantial amount. Of the 20-25 nightly departures, the vast majority are moved from OB to the 290.


There is verification that documentation for this change, this implementation of the nighttime noise abatement agreement, was never documented by the FAA. If I talk with an FAA person familiar with NEPA, which I did at the Aviation Noise Conference, they will say that it is not possible for this change to have been made without a NEPA being activated. So, my conclusion is that implementation of the nighttime noise abatement agreement decades ago was illegal. Some may argue that there is a 60 day appeal time, but that would apply if a NEPA had been done. So, there is no statute of limitations on this illegal action. I have absolutely no doubt that the action was illegal and that there is a passive coverup of sorts.

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