Lawsuit talk buzzing about airport noise

Residents in the tiny coastal village of Montara are preparing to file a lawsuit against the Half Moon Bay Airport, claiming that airplanes have been flying too low over their neighborhood, some barely flying “above the treetops.”

George Skegas, who has been living in Montara with his wife for nearly four years, said he initially didn’t notice that they lived close to an airport. But around last fall, that changed, when he said noisy air traffic “increased exponentially.”

“I have nothing against the airport or the pilots, but what we’re having problems with is a lot of these pilots seem not to conform to rules and regulations,” he said.

He said he has reported these instances — which he said create ear-splitting noise as well as a safety hazard — to airport officials, but the problem has not gone away. So now, he’s consulting attorneys to explore his legal options.

The airport is one of two managed by the county government’s Public Works Department. The second, San Carlos Airport, sees about three times the traffic, said Mark Larson, the airports’ manager.

Larson said the potential lawsuit was news to him, and was surprised to hear that the residents’ complaints had gone unanswered.

He said airport officials go out into surrounding neighborhoods about two hours each week to monitor noise and low-flying airplanes. According to those observations, planes flying out of the airport are in compliance with regulations “99 percent of the time,” he said.

He said the airport encourages residents to voice any concerns about planes flying in or out of the airport. In the few times he’s had to talk to a pilot for not obeying a regulation, he said, he’s always found them to be responsive.

“I can’t think of a single time when we’ve had a second offense from someone we’ve talked to or sent a letter to,” he said.

Skegas said he’s been contacting other Montara residents to see if they may be interested in organizing to combat low and noisy flights.

But not all Montarans share the Skegas’ concerns.

Emily Hoche-Mong, who runs a bed and breakfast in Montara with her husband, has a sticker in her front window reading “I (heart) airplane noise.”

“We are both pilots,” she said. “There are small airports closing all over California, and I don’t want this one to close.”

kworth@examiner.com

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