Airplane activity has increased dramatically in the past few years, and it’s only going to get worse. The City of Santa Barbara has realized what a cash cow it has in the airport, and the city is milking it for all it’s worth. To encourage commercial airlines to come into SBA, the city is waiving landing fees. To encourage private pilots and general aviation, it is reconfiguring its facilities for new, fixed-based operators.

Plane traffic starts around 6 a.m. and often can still be heard at midnight. To quantify the noise, the airport uses an antiquated FAA protocol that requires community members to identify a wayward airplane, note the time and location of the flyover (and even its altitude!), and call this information in to a hot line. A staff member aggregates complaints by month and neighborhood. She then writes a letter to the offending airlines pointing out the preferred noise abatement program route, which is over the ocean and across More Mesa.

Unfortunately, compliance with the program is strictly voluntary, and the airport has no way to enforce it. Moreover, the city has a disincentive to censure the very airlines it is so desperately courting. The situation is even worse with private planes. The airport doesn’t seem to know who is coming and going, much less regulating their flight patterns. Instead of the Friendly Skies over Santa Barbara, these days it is more like the Wild, Wild West.

Frequent, jarring airplane noise is preventing residents of Hope Ranch, San Roque, and neighborhoods throughout Goleta from sitting outside, enjoying their backyards, and, sometimes, even sleeping.  Where will it all end? Airport officials are not putting a cap on growth — they’re just hell-bent on making it happen.


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