Civil Grand Jury Suggests Monterey Airport District Improve Outreach on Noise

May 14, 2024

MONTEREY – The Monterey County Civil Grand Jury investigated a community complaint regarding noise that aircraft produce during take off and landing at the Monterey Regional Airport and came away recommending better community outreach.

“The grand jury spent time to learn about the airport and what we can and can’t do” about aircraft noise, said Monterey Regional Airport Executive Director Mike La Pier. “We appreciate that as there’s always room for improvement in what we do.”

Every one of California’s 58 counties convenes a group of citizens annually to take an oath to serve as grand jurors to investigate the operations of various officers, departments and agencies of local government. Their annual reports aim to provide a foundation for discussion and action to improve local government services.

One such report titled “Monterey Regional Airport: Understanding Noise” was released earlier this month detailing the grand jury’s investigation into Monterey airport aircraft noise and found that “the public is largely unaware of the multiple factors involved in airport noise, flight paths, and schedules,” and put forth a number of recommendations centered around communicating with the community about those multiple factors.

The Monterey Peninsula Airport District regulates and manages all operational functions which take place on the ground, the Civil Grand Jury report states. The District does not have the authority to regulate what happens in the airspace, including flight paths. Those regulations are dictated by the Federal Aviation Administration and are done so uniformly across the United States.

“We don’t control when aircraft land and take off here,” said La Pier. “The FAA has the last say and controls the airspace.”

The Monterey airport operates 24/7 according to Federal Aviation Administration regulations which say it must be available for emergencies, military operations, commercial carriers, weather delays, and aircraft operational issues.

Federal Aviation Administration regulations control the flight paths and aircraft routing into and out of every airport, including the Monterey airport. The airport can only encourage pilots on Visual Flight Rules to fly over unpopulated areas.

Noise is a common nuisance related to airports, especially to people living along common flight paths or close to the airport, the Civil Grand Jury report notes. This issue is being addressed slowly nationwide as newer commercial and private aircraft are considerably quieter and more fuel efficient.

Joby Aviation’s electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicle, which is being produced in Marina, is a good example of the future of air travel say some. Joby has designed and produced an electric air taxi that will carry a pilot and four passengers at speeds up to 200 mph offering high-speed mobility with a fraction of the noise produced by helicopters and zero operating emissions.

“There is a lot of discussion in the industry about exploring using hydrogen-powered engines that would be quieter,” said La Pier.

For its part, the Monterey airport is moving toward using electric-powered ground equipment to reduce noise. La Pier said that at the new Monterey Regional Airport terminal, currently in the design phase, airlines will be required to use electric ground power units, refuelers, tugs and tractors, and other equipment currently powered by fossil fuels. Jet bridges will also be all electric. Using electric-powered equipment is far less noisy and better for the environment, he said.

The airport district regularly reviews and logs complaints received, but the Civil Grand Jury found that the district could improve its community outreach efforts, especially regarding noise complaints, and should make those public complaints and its responses more easily found on its website.

The airport district came into being in 1941 and is governed by five publicly-elected board members, each representing a portion of the 498-acre district that stretches from the Monterey Peninsula eastward encompassing the cities of Carmel, Del Rey Oaks, Monterey, Pacific Grove, and Sand City, along with portions of Seaside, Pebble Beach, Carmel Highlands, Carmel Valley, and the Monterey-Salinas Highway to Laureles Grade.

The mission of the Monterey Regional Airport is to provide the region with convenient commercial and general aviation access to the national air transportation system, operating in a safe, efficient, sustainable, fiscally responsible manner, while developing the airport to meet future needs, opportunities and challenges.

La Pier said the Monterey Regional Airport understands the recommendations put forth by the Monterey County Civil Grand Jury is “going to take them under serious consideration and advisement.”

The Monterey Peninsula Airport District Board of Directors is required to respond within 90 days of the publication of the report.

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