Tempers Rise as Planes Descend

Continued efforts are underway to persuade the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to change the flightpath that sends aircraft flying directly over Lake Arrowhead. Second District Supervisor for the County of San Bernardino Janice Rutherford reported in a Dec. 18 email: “We had a very productive meeting with the FAA last week. Progress is being made.”

As a result of that meeting, it appears that the FAA might send a representative to meet with the community at one or more meetings of the Municipal Advisory Councils in the mountain communities.

This in itself would be a major accomplishment: A perusal of online sources will show that the FAA most frequently declines to attend meetings with individual communities, preferring to work only through administrative channels.

Rutherford’s communications director, Scott Vanhorne, said that last week’s meeting also covered changes that might be made to alleviate noise from the planes.

Noise reduction, however, is not the only aim. Supervisor Rutherford has consistently supported efforts by Lake Arrowhead residents to move the flight path back over Heaps Peak, and she recognizes that it is a reasonable solution that could be achieved without litigation.

Also supporting the possibility of that remedy is U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, who wrote to FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta in November, stating, “In the case of Lake Arrowhead, the flight path adjustment resulted in planes that formerly flew over an unpopulated mountain peak now travel directly above the lake community en route to Ontario International Airport.”

Feinstein went on to request, “As the FAA engages in its post-implementation review of its SoCal Metroplex project, I ask that you consider all options to reduce the noise impact on affected communities. Also, please address these specific issues: 1. Adjustments to the current flight paths, or a return to previous flight paths to limit the noise in particular communities.”

A second issue that Feinstein cited was enforcement of FAA-established altitude levels for planes flying above residential areas, noting that many planes are not in compliance with prescribed altitude levels.

Looking toward the future, Feinstein’s third issue was a recommendation that the FAA make plans to improve its analysis of flight path changes to avoid noise disruptions in other communities. The senator is already juggling complaints from Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles and Culver City, as well as Lake Arrowhead.

She noted in her letter to Huerta, “These complaints echo the concerns I have heard in northern California, which I understand you are working to address. In addition, I suspect there are communities throughout the state that are experiencing similar disruptions.”

It remains to be seen whether complaints from numerous other locations are in competition with Lake Arrowhead for the attention of Huerta and other FAA bureaucrats. On the other hand, it might be that consistent and common complaints could be more persuasive than individual voices from fewer communities.

For example, a medical doctor from Newport Beach has been sending to the FAA articles from medical journals that connect airport noise to serious health issues. Specifically, studies show that the psychological stress induced by airplane noise can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attacks and strokes.

Those health conditions are higher in people who live near flight paths and airports, according to the studies. Individuals who already have those diseases suffer more because the conditions progress more rapidly in those who live near an airport and flight paths.

The same doctor has submitted additional studies showing that children’s cognitive development can be impaired by airport noise — a concern that arises as planes descend directly above Rim of the World High School.

Open Letters to FAA’s Huerta

As airplanes continue to fly directly over Lake Arrowhead and surrounding communities, citizens persist in their efforts to persuade the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the need to eliminate the flightpath directly over Lake Arrowhead, and to move the path back to its original location above Heaps Peak.

Michael P. Huerta, the administrator of the FAA, was sworn into office on Jan. 7, 2013. He serves a five-year term and is responsible for the safety and efficiency of the world’s largest aerospace system. The FAA has a budget of $16.3 billion and more than 47,000 employees.

Two recent examples of letters to Huerta are printed below: one from a first-time correspondent, and one from a repeat writer. The letters have been edited for length and clarity.

Dec. 3, 2017

To Michael Huerta:

A few nights ago, I was traveling from “down-the-hill” back home up a winding section of Rim of the World Highway (State Highway 18), when I pulled into a turnout to listen to a special announcement on a radio show. This was also a perfect opportunity and vantage point from which to enjoy a spectacular sunset that was turning a scarlet color. I was at approximately 4,000 feet elevation.

From this vantage point, I noticed the first of a string of commercial jet aircraft virtually skimming Rim of the World Highway on their descent into Ontario International Airport. I was at what most of us consider to be the highway’s most beautiful segment, both day and night, in terms of foliage and panoramic views. I was devastated.

The next morning around 5 a.m., I was reflecting on the horrible experience I had endured the evening before. Within a span of 20 minutes, two very loud jet aircraft spewed their way above my home and across our pristine 2.5-by 2.75-mile lake.

Michael, this is too much for our beautiful rural community to bear. It is absurd for us to endure this interruption in our peace and serenity when all that has to happen is for the FAA to abandon “EAGLZ-ONE” and direct incoming aircraft back to “ZIGGY6,” which passes over our dump. Really.

Upon further reflection, it struck me that Rim of the World Highway is a Scenic Byway federally designated by — yes — the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration. How can one body in your department destroy what another body in the same department has identified as worthy of preservation? It makes no sense at all.

Jim Price

A deeply concerned citizen

Dec. 18, 2017

To FAA and Legislative Members:

UPS 5x920 crossed over my house and our community this morning, as my clock read 5:18 a.m. I was awakened from a sound sleep due to the loud roar and thunder of a cargo aircraft crossing overhead.

Using playback on Planefinder.net, I found the aircraft and the altitude recorded at Highway 18 and Highway 173 to be only 7,550 feet mean sea level, confirming that the very low crossing of this aircraft was 1,770 feet above ground as it roared overhead.

This email is to register yet another complaint with the FAA over this type of aggravation in the sky. Nobody in Lake Arrowhead should be subjected to such harassment, disregard for human habitation and destruction of quality of life. This continuing nuisance must stop!

Moreover, the engine pollution from these cargo planes will accumulate and eventually pollute the drinking water of Lake Arrowhead, along with the air. The particulate matter is already noticeable to me because this is the first time in 20 years of living here that I actually find “black” filth on the window of my vehicle. Brown dirt is common, but black never before collected on our windows.

Further, I can smell the jet exhaust. Considering that my sense of smell is not that good, smelling the effluent is really surprising and disturbing.

My location is the same altitude/elevation as Rim of the World High School. The plane crossing is the intersection of Scenic Highway 18 (Rim of the World Drive) and Highway 173. The elevation is 5,780 feet, according to Google Earth. Again, this plane was only 1,770 feet above ground.

* * *

There is no reasonable justification for any cargo or passenger carrier to frighten and frustrate a community by crossing loudly over the roofs of homes at such a low altitude when other flight paths are available and suitable for use.

Please do something to stop the aircraft aggravation.

David Caine

Lake Arrowhead