Responsibility of State of California for Airport Noise Abatement

The following letter from the manager of the Aeronautics Program, California Department of Transportation, describes the state's role in airport noise abatement. Portions of the letter have been deleted.

July 17, 1997

I have been asked to respond to your letter to Governor Wilson....

... In your letter you indicate that you believe that the State of California has approved a noise abatement procedure being implemented by the Oakland International Airport specifically for North Field flight operations. There may be a misunderstanding here. This Department is the agency that works directly with airport issues on behalf of the State of California; however, we do not issue approvals of noise abatement procedures for airports.

This Department does have a role in implementing regulations entitled, "Noise Standards," that apply to airports designated by local County Boards of Supervisors to have a noise problem. The regulations are retained in the California Code of Regulations, Title 21, beginning at Section 5000. The Noise Standards encourage airport proprietors to develop and implement noise abatement procedures that are consistent with Federal Law. Since Federal Law preempts the control of the navigable airspace over the United States, the Noise Standards cannot provide the State of California the authority to control an aircraft in flight....

Airport proprietors have no direct control over aircraft in flight. However, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recognizes that airport proprietors bear the financial responsibility for damages that may result from aircraft noise. Therefore, the FAA attempts to implement the requests from airport proprietors regarding the location of traffic patterns, flight tracks near airports, and other aircraft operational issues. Safety is given a high priority in decisions of this nature, and the resulting products of such coordination are often called noise abatement procedures.

Noise abatement procedures are usually established by airport proprietors following an analysis of the severity of the noise problem and the potential benefits from various alternative noise abatement procedures. This analysis may include coordination with airport user groups, airport neighbors, with the FAA since the FAA will be involved in implementing any procedure adopted by the airport proprietor, and with others. An analysis of this nature can be accomplished through the use of information developed in studies performed under Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 150, or a similar study activity. Public meetings are commonly held to discuss the proposed noise abatement procedures. Oakland International Airport conducted such a study in the mid 1980s. A representative of this Department attended the public sessions of the study as a resource to respond to questions regarding the requirements of the Airport Noise Standards. However, the State of California has no role regarding the approval or implementation of noise abatement procedures or projects involving the acoustic treatment or acquisition of property that may result from such studies....

Marlin Beckwith
Program Manager
Aeronautics Program
Department of Transportation
1120 N Street, Room 3300
Sacramento, CA 94273-0001