San Lorenzo Citizens Fighting Airport Noise

Hayward Airport Annual Noise Evaluation
for Calendar Year 2009


The following information is taken from the "Annual Evaluation of the Performance-Based Noise Ordinance for Calendar Year 2009" (dated April 22, 2010) prepared by the manager of the Hayward Executive Airport.

During 2009 there were 108,611 operations (takeoffs and landings), of which 3,292 occurred at night (9 p.m. to 7 a.m.). The total is a significant decrease (29.3 percent) from 2008. The decrease virtually erases the slight increases of the last three years, and resumes the steady decline that has been occurring over several years. The number of nighttime operations (3,292) was considerably less than in 2007 and 2008, returning to the levels of earlier years (4,040 in 2008, 4,231 in 2007, 3,029 in 2006, 3,574 in 2005). In 2009 nighttime operations were 3 percent of all operations, compared to 2.6 percent in 2008, 2.8 percent in 2007, and 2.3 percent in 2006.


During the year 1,027 noise complaints were filed by 54 households. The total number of complaints is slightly less than in the two previous years (1,149 in 2008; 1,276 in 2007), while the number of households complaining is about the same as in 2008 (52) but still much higher than in 2007 (30). Five San Lorenzo households were responsible for most complaints (950). Of the complaints filed, those complaints that did not correlate with noise that exceeded the limits in the city's Aircraft Noise Ordinance (see below) were removed from the annual noise evaluation.

The reasons given for excluding these complaints are "the inability to associate any reportable noise activity to many of these complaints and staff's objective to manage limited resources." The explanation changes slightly from one year to the next, but the rationale remains obscure. The airport has several noise monitors that automatically record any aircraft noise above a certain threshold set by airport staff, a threshold that is well below the limits set by the city ordinance. These noise records are kept in a computer data base, and any record of noise at a particular date and time can be instantly identified. In fact, according to the annual report, airport staff go to the trouble of identifying the level of noise for each complaint in order to throw out complaints about noise below a certain level. In other words, "reportable noise" is any noise that exceeds the limit set in the City's ordinance. Complaints of "lesser" noise are not considered legitimate.

The following findings for 2009, reported by the City, are therefore based on the small number of complaints about aircraft noise that happened to exceed the city's noise limits.

The number of households registering noise complaints (54) was about the same as in 2008 (52), but the number of complaints continues to increase (120 in 2009, 110 in 2008, 84 in 2007). As in previous years, most complaints (94) were for noise between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Most complaints were from San Lorenzo (70 percent), but the proportion from San Lorenzo compared to other areas was significantly lower than in previous years (86 percent in 2007, 81 percent in 2006). Residents in the Hayward neighborhoods of Mobile Home Park and Southgate filed 12 percent of all complaints. Complaints from residents in Hayward neighborhoods not in the vicinity of the airport, as well as from residents of San Leandro, Castro Valley, Union City, and Fremont, accounted for 18 percent of complaints. (Complaints from distant areas may be caused by aircraft not operating from the Hayward Airport.)

Like last year, noise complaints were classified into six "causes": departures, landings, general complaints, touch-and-go flying (training flights that take off, then land, without stopping), run up, and media/police. Most complaints in 2009 (63 percent) were associated with "departures," about the same as in 2008 (60 percent) but down considerably from 2007 (81 percent). The second largest category was "touch and go" (15 percent), and the third largest "landings" (11.7 percent). The category of "general complaints," which accounts for only 3.3 percent of complaints in 2009, has not been defined in recent annual reports. It was added in the report for the year 2000, when it represented the largest category of complaints. In that report the airport manager explained that "general complaints" concerned "traffic watch", meaning the KGO and East Bay Regional Park District helicopters then based at the airport. He brushed aside these complaints, noting that "these are common complaints in a metropolitan area." The "general complaint" category was dropped in 2001 but included again in 2002. The "media/police" category of earlier years became simply "police" until 2008, when the category was once again called "media/police". Without clear definitions from airport staff, all this semantic change is puzzling.

Jets accounted for most complaints (78 of 120 complaints), but, as in 2008, complaints were directed in large numbers at other types of aircraft: single engine planes (15.8 percent of complaints), helicopters (13.3 percent), multi-engine aircraft (5.8 percent, down from 15.5 percent in 2008).

As in past years, the report for 2009 reflects the attitude of the City of Hayward that noise levels that do not violate the city's Aircraft Noise Ordinance are not serious disturbances of nearby residents.

Violations of the Airport Noise Ordinance

The City of Hayward, as owner of the Hayward Airport, has an ordinance that sets noise limits for aircraft operating at the airport. A single take-off can cause an exceedance of the limit to be recorded at more than one noise monitor (the airport has four monitors), but simultaneous exceedances produced by an aircraft count as only a single violation of the ordinance. Certain aircraft are exempt from the Aircraft Noise Ordinance. These are largely medical emergency aircraft and "stage-3" aircraft ("stage 3" describes jet aircraft with the latest noise-supression technology, which does not mean these aircraft are necessarily "quiet".)

During 2009 the airport's noise monitors recorded 197 exceedances of the city's aircraft noise limits, the same number as in 2008 (compared to 151 in 2007, 136 in 2006, and 123 in 2005). There has been a 68 percent increase in exceedances since 2004. Most of the exceedances (159 out of 197) were caused by aircraft that are exempt from the city's aircraft noise ordinance (compared to 130 in 2008). Of the exemptions, 151 were "stage 3" aircraft (compared to 122 in 2008, 123 in 2007, 111 in 2006, 97 in 2005, and 58 in 2004); these are most likely business jets. Medical emergency flights accounted for eight exemptions, the same number as in 2008 (compared to 2 in 2007, 3 in 2006, 18 in 2005, and 29 in 2004).

In 2009 the number of nonexempt exceedances, or violations, was 38 (compared to 67 in 2008, 26 in 2007, 21 in 2006, 11 in 2005, 30 in 2004, and 18 in 2003). The annual report gives no explanation for the severe reduction in violations since 2008. Four of the violations were by aircraft based at the Hayward Airport (compared to 8 in 2008 and 4 in 2007), while transient aircraft accounted for the remaining 34 violations. Thus the loudest disturbances continue to be created largely by pilots that the airport cannot effectively control. The airport manager does have effective control over an aircraft based at the airport through the terms of the lease for the aircraft, which include a requirement that the owner comply with all airport and city regulations. But under Federal Aviation Administration regulations an aircraft cannot be barred from landing at Hayward because it is "noisy."