On Thursday, November 17 the Select Committee on South Bay Arrivals, a body of elected officials convened by Congressional representatives Anna Eshoo, Sam Farr, and Jackie Speier to address jet noise, voted 8-4 to shift the SERFR arrival flight path from Happy Valley and Los Gatos to a legacy path called BSR (BIGSUR). During earlier meetings a new flight path was proposed (referred to as DAVYJ but using the BSR track) which overflies Santa Cruz, San Lorenzo Valley, Scotts Valley, and Bonny Doon in Santa Cruz County.

The SERFR flight path was implemented last year as part of the FAA’s new, GPS based, Next Generation (NextGen) air traffic control system, which is currently being rolled out nationwide. NextGen design parameters dictate that the SERFR arrival maintain a lower profile than the legacy BIGSUR and an increase in the concentration of airplanes - to about 180 per day.

Prior to Thursdays vote, Santa Cruz City Councilmember Don Lane, Supervisor Bruce McPherson, Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, and South San Francisco Mayor Mark Addiego gave a thumbs up to Lane’s well-articulated proposal that the Committee establish definitive noise-limiting criteria which the FAA’s technical experts could then use to design the safest, quietest, most efficient and optimally located flight path, (not necessarily SERFR or DAVYJ). That vote failed and instead those wishing to move the path and shift the noise prevailed.

While the Select Committee was charged to find a ‘regional’ solution to jet noise, it did not. Instead, the final 8-4 vote to move the SERFR path to DAVYJ resulted in a parochial and binary decision – winners and losers - this path or that path – based on the lay opinions of appointed committee members. Now the FAA’s flawed NextGen process that created SERFR and its complaints will be repeated for DAVYJ, and community outcry will begin anew. As it should, because, as the proposal stands, there will be no accurate measurement of noise comparisons to inure residents to unacceptable levels of jet noise, no mechanisms in place to ensure that the FAA will be held to predetermined criteria, and no capacity limits on the new path to SFO, the fastest growing airport in the nation.

A significant opportunity has been lost. A truly regional solution would have been to involve all stakeholders and demand that the FAA actually fix the process by which NextGen created SERFR - a fix that would compel the FAA to actually measure the noise they create by their actions, and a fix that would serve everybody, not just one community over another.

George Wylie is a retired commercial airline pilot and a member of the San Lorenzo Valley school board.

(6) comments


My husband and I live to District 5 and we voted for Bruce McPherson. Now I am wondering why I did this. I do not understand why he is obstructing reinstating the old flight path. According to the plan created by the Select Committee, we will have a 3-month trial on the modified flight path with a subsequent meeting with the FAA to consider how it is working. It is obvious from the turnouts against the NextGen flight path that the majority of the people in Santa Cruz County, including District 5, have been seriously affected. I support moving forward as soon as possible to go back to the old flight path, with the modifications. Our lives have been so disrupted by the NextGen flight path that it has become hard to live here. We have lived in Scotts Valley for 20 years and have never felt such a negative impact. My husband does not even want to go outside anymore because of the flight noise. I would like to know how the residents in Boulder Creek fared under the old flight plan. Somehow, it does not seem that they had many problems given the miniscule number of noise reports in all the years of the old flight path. I urge Bruce McPherson to either withdraw his objection, or find a suitable compromise, so that the majority of us, his constituents, can get back to living here in peace.


George Wylie seems more interested in sewing fear and stirring up controversy that staying true to the facts. First among these is where the old BIG SUR track was -- see the previous poster's links (hint: not Bonny Doon, not San Lorenzo Valley).

The real story is that on March 5, 2015 the FAA implemented the poorly thought out SERFR arrival -- mismatched with SFO's Class B airspace which causes pilots to fly a noisy stair-step approach.

The old BIG SUR was an idle glide approach and it will be again -- with the same noise or likely better than before.

The shift back also unmoves noise so that we can all be more secure that we don't wake up one day to find unannounced, arbitrary, and poorly designed changes over our heads.


The flight path is not a pencil-thin line on the ground. It is thousands of feet above ground. The sound shadow (see the work of Mid Peninsula groups) extends to the San Lorenzo Valley.

50% of flights vector to the west. FAA imagery shows that those flight paths COVER the San Lorenzo Valley.

The ONLY people saying the flight path is not over SLV are people who never left their expensive retirement home in the Los Gatos hills.


This article is full of misinformation.
First of all, the historical ground track BSR (BIG SUR) does not go over the San Lorenzo Valley!
See the map here: https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?mid=1IU011OfrPfc2fLAMaZco0rCGZVw&ll=37.0208080400897%2C-122.02926060858226&z=13

Please refer to the recommendations of the Select Committee on South Bay Arrivals:

See page 5 of the actual document, which I am quoting below. It clearly shows that most of the statements in the article are false. Please refer to the facts!!

"Recommendation 1: The Select Committee recommends that arrivals into SFO from the south use the BSR ground track for a new NextGen procedure that incorporates the criteria contained in Recommendation 2 below.

Recommendation 2: The Committee recommends that the new NextGen procedure for arrivals into SFO from the south be implemented as soon as feasible and include the following criteria:
1. Results in noise modeling of the proposed new procedure that has an
equivalent or less DNL noise exposure along its entire route when compared
to the noise modeling of the BSR 2014 procedure;
2. Uses flight altitudes at least as high as (and preferably higher) than the
historic BSR procedure along its entire route;
3. Starts from a point over the Monterey Bay and reaches the shoreline at an
altitude no lower than 12,500 feet mean sea level;
4. Utilizes a new BSR waypoint equivalent to the EDDYY waypoint at or
above 6,000 feet to ensure flights cross the MENLO waypoint at or above
5,000 feet and maintain idle power until the HEMAN waypoint;
5. Prioritizes and adheres as closely as possible to an OPD terminating at the
HEMAN waypoint;
6. Incorporates a modification to Class B airspace if needed;
7. Uses flight altitudes that are as high as possible while still allowing idle
power flight;
8. Is designed to avoid the use of speed brakes; and,
9. Will be subject to future capacity limitations, particularly during nighttime
hours and when vectoring exceeds current levels.


The link to the recommendations can be better accessed here:


Those look more like John Leopold promises than anything that might actually happen in the real world.

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