San Jose City has reached agreement with FAA to allow planes to use San Jose airport at night as long as they do it quietly. For those who are not aware, Oracle Corp's CEO Larry Ellison Ellison successfully argued that his private Gulfstream V jet, which weighed more than 75,000 pounds, was quieter than many non-commercial aircraft that were exempt from the curfew.
Not sure if any airliner would be interested to operate any new flights at night.
Source: San Jose Mercury News
Airport changes curfew policy
AIRCRAFT BAN TO BE
NOISE, NOT SIZE
By Rodney Foo
Airplanes now will be allowed to use San Jose airport at night as long as they do it relatively quietly, according to an agreement between the city and the Federal Aviation Administration.
Until now, airplanes were banned from the airport between 11:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. based on their size, not the amount of noise they make. The plan unveiled Wednesday means that residents will be protected from loud planes flying overhead late at night, and owners of certain kinds of large planes, like Oracle chief Larry Ellison's, will no longer need to seek curfew exemptions.
The plan was sparked by a court case brought by the jet-plane owner that transports the SaberCats arena football team. The owner claimed that the city's curfew is arbitrary and discriminatory, and a judge is scheduled to consider the matter in three weeks.
Under the new rules, planes that exceed an average of 89 decibels will not be allowed to land or takeoff at Mineta San Jose International Airport during curfew hours. Until now, aircraft that weighed more than 75,000 pounds -- no matter how quiet they were -- had been barred from using the airport. In determining the noise of a plane, the FAA measures at various distances and takes into consideration how long the noise lasts. Other sounds of roughly 89 decibels include a hand-held hair dryer or a power lawn mower.
The changes also allow the city to levy a $2,500 fine against violators, beefing up its power to enforce the curfew.
Mayor Ron Gonzales praised the new rules saying it ``protects the peace of neighborhoods'' and ``prevents the possible elimination of our curfew.''
Officials acknowledged that the new rules open the possibility that more commercial airlines could fly into San Jose during curfew hours. But that is unlikely because airlines would have to purchase multimillion-dollar planes that meet the noise limit, said airport director Ralph Tonseth and John Hesler, an environmental consultant hired by the airport.
To residents who live under the airport's flight approach, the existing program had become something of a sieve with a growing number of aircraft owners trying to obtain curfew exemptions, most notably billionaire Oracle chief Larry Ellison, who fought the curfew in federal court and won.
In the aftermath of Ellison's victory, Horta LLC, which flies the SaberCats on its Boeing 727, sought an exemption. Horta is connected to the team's owner, the Fry family of Fry's Electronics.
Horta contends its plane falls within the Stage 3 category. City officials contend the Horta plane is still too loud.
In response to Horta's request, the city council passed a moratorium on exemptions in April 2002 that is still in place. Horta took its case to federal court. Judge Jeremy Fogel in June warned the city it must make a decision on Horta's request by a Oct. 27 hearing or risk seeing the curfew ruled invalid.
The city council is scheduled to adopt the new curfew rules at its Oct. 21 meeting.
The impending court date was ``very critical'' in hastening discussions, Gonzales said. ``I think its very important. We took his decision very seriously.''
The effect of the new rules on Horta's case isn't clear, said Horta's attorney, James Chadwick.
``We'll know more when we see the city's actual text of the proposed ordinance,'' he said.
Chadwick also questioned whether the FAA's written approval of the city's plan represented its final decision.
``If it's not the final order,'' the FAA ``could revise it,'' Chadwick said.
For those affected by the noise, the changes were welcome.
``Well, certainly the complaints have always been about the noise, not how big the plane was, so I think it's progress,'' said Chip Evans, who helped organize a grass-roots organization that unsuccessfully opposed the expansion of the airport.
Changing the criteria to noise instead of weight not only rescues residents from noise but also makes the regulations easier to understand, Gonzales said.
``I am just thrilled with this agreement with the FAA,'' said Councilman Ken Yeager, who includes the neighborhoods beneath the airport approach. ``I just really, really see this as a huge step not just for us but for other communities across the U.S.'' that are coping with airport noise.
The new regulations allow roughly 10 aircraft that already have exemptions to continue flying during curfews.