Lynne Plambeck | Noticing a Lot of Aircraft Noise Lately in SCV?


If you live in the south Santa Clarita Valley, you may have noticed an increase in noise from jet and propeller planes. It’s not your imagination. 

The FAA has instituted a new flight program called “NextGen,” which allows more flights to land and take off at Burbank and Van Nuys airports. The new tracking system allows these planes to fly lower and closer together. It also changed the flight patterns so that flights are now routed directly over neighborhoods in the south Santa Clarita Valley and through the Newhall Pass instead of coming in over the industrial center and Santa Susanna mountains. 

The result? 

A veritable freeway of airplane noise and pollution over our once-quiet neighborhoods.

Apparently, this all began to happen a few years ago for folks in the San Fernando Valley, and even earlier for others elsewhere in the U.S. The flight patterns apparently only changed in the SCV around last September or October, and then with all the firefighting aircraft needed to stop the Tick Fire, people didn’t really notice the added noise until December. 

So, the San Fernando Valley residents are way ahead of us in presenting their issues. These changes were made by the FAA without adequate public input or noise mapping. The noise is especially bad on high-travel days of Monday and Thursday when planes come in and take off one after each other and the noise is constant for several hours in the morning and evening. 

Quiet skies groups are popping up all over the U.S. to address similar issues in their communities.

Some 500 residents attended the January task force meeting in Burbank with the FAA to complain about the noise and vibrations from the new flight patterns and increased flights over their once-quiet neighborhoods. 

They related horror stories of children no longer being able to hear their teachers in school and the anxiety of being awakened by jet noise at night when recalcitrant airlines don’t abide by the “quiet hours” rule. 

These residents are demanding that the FAA do adequate noise analysis to determine the real impact on their neighborhoods and return to the old flight patterns. The city of Los Angeles has filed litigation to force additional review.

Santa Clarita for Quiet Skies (, a new group that has formed to address these issues, thinks our valley needs to be included in these new studies. 

Apparently, no one anticipated the noise increases in our valley, and we were not even included in the noise contour modeling.

But it’s not just the noise, it’s the added air pollution from jets and propeller aircraft flying immediately over residential neighborhoods. And what about the danger of malfunction where jet fuel must be dumped, and ends up on local school playgrounds dousing the children? 

This recently happened when a Delta flight dumped its fuel near LAX. If that plane had been higher, as it might have been with the old flight pattern, perhaps the spray would have dissipated before landing on the school children.

All this is being done to accommodate more jet flights. The increased number of flights is by far the greatest cause of the problem. 

But wait, isn’t jet travel a big source of the greenhouse gas pollution that causes climate change? 

When I brought this question up to one of the city of Los Angeles task force representatives, I was told “That’s capitalism. There’s no way we can ask the airlines to go back to the previous fewer number of flights.”

And that’s exactly what worries me about all the supposed plans to address climate change. When the “rubber meets the road” (or the tarmac), will anyone ever take the needed actions to reduce climate change in the face of the corporate mandate to make more and more money, even if it means possibly making our planet unlivable? 

It seems the answer is no. 

Will they ever take the residents’ quality of life into consideration over corporate profits? 

What do you think?

Lynne Plambeck is president of the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment.

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