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SLO Airport responds to local residents’ concern over airplane noise

Randol White - KCBX News

The Laguna Lake neighborhood in San Luis Obispo was built directly in the flight path of airplanes departing from the county’s regional airport.

Some residents say the noise from planes flying overhead has never been an issue until recently.

Claudia Duckworth has lived in the Laguna Lake neighborhood since 2012 in a house her parents built in 1986.

“I’ve been here for a while and I do not remember ever having airplanes going over us this low, this loud, this often,” Duckworth said.

She said the airplane traffic above her home has worsened over the last couple of years. She said her neighbors are noticing it too, often being woken up early in the morning.

“When we built here and moved here — and my parents purposefully built on a cul de sac because they wanted a quiet neighborhood — there were certainly not planes like that flying over then," Duckworth said. "And there weren’t when I first moved here in 2012.”

Craig Piper is the deputy director for County Airports and he’s worked at the airport for more than 20 years. Piper acknowledges that some people are affected differently by noise than others.

He said complaints do come in, but there isn’t much they can do to fix the issues people like Duckworth are describing. He said commercial jets do fly out early and over the Laguna Lake neighborhood, but the Federal Aviation Administration is in charge of determining things like flight paths and times.

Piper said, generally, planes aren’t flying lower than they have in the past.

“On takeoff, they are always trying to climb as quickly as they can and get out of here," Piper said. "So they’re not flying lower in that regard.”

Piper said commercial jets have gotten bigger to accommodate more passengers, but they’re not getting louder.

“Aircraft over time — especially jet aircraft over the years — they’ve improved the technology on them and they’re much, much quieter than what they used to be,” Piper said.

He said the airport is even operating fewer daily departure flights than they were pre-pandemic — down from about 24 to between 12 and 16 right now.

Though, that number only refers to departures of commercial jets. Private pilots also fly planes out of the airport daily.

Piper said the bottom line is the noise generated from planes flying out of the San Luis Obispo airport isn’t enough to necessitate a noise study or implement larger mitigation strategies right now.

Piper said people with noise concerns can submit a complaint and the airport can address individual concerns directly.

Rachel Showalter first joined KCBX as an intern from Cal Poly in 2017. During her time in college, she anchored and reported for Mustang News at Cal Poly's radio station, KCPR. After graduating, she took her first job as a Producer at KSBY-TV. She returned to the KCBX team in October 2020, reporting daily for KCBX News until she moved to the Pacific Northwest in July of 2022. Rachel spends her off-days climbing rocks, cooking artichokes and fighting crosswords with friends.
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