Yes, we residents of Harbor Bay suffered greater daytime noise from Oakland International Airport (OAK) on many Mondays this summer. Why? OAK’s revenue has plummeted as a result of the pandemic, and as a cost-savings measure, it shifted normal maintenance operations on its main commercial runway from nighttime to daytime, primarily on Mondays. As a result, large passenger and cargo jets have been diverted while maintenance occurred during the day. They have been departing directly over Bay Farm Island – disturbing our peacefulness and increasing our risk.
Representing Harbor Bay, CLASS has engaged continuously with OAK, sharing our community’s concerns and asking it to desist from daytime maintenance. Ninety-five residents also filed complaints with the airport. Although we understand OAK’s financial challenges and know that they are under no legal obligation to comply with our wishes, we do not feel that Alameda should suffer unnecessarily. We are most pleased to report that OAK has discontinued daytime maintenance operations, ending this specific disturbance and danger to Harbor Bay. Community action works!
At the same time, living adjacent to an airport will always present special challenges. Although CLASS acts on Harbor Bay’s behalf, individual vigilance carries weight with OAK as well. This is a good time to clarify issues and remind readers what they can do to help.
Most commercial jets take off from OAK’s 10,520 foot long Runway 30 (so named because it faces 300 degrees on the compass). It was designed so that straight-line departures overfly the bay, parallel to the Bay Farm Island’s southwest shore. This results in less noise than if departures overfly the island. The sooner planes bank leftward, away from the island, the less noise Harbor Bay receives. One continuing issue is that in 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) adopted departure protocols, that require planes to delay the left bank, resulting in more noise in Harbor Bay than we suffered before this mandate. This decision occurred without community input, and CLASS continues to argue for a return to prior procedures.
When Runway 30 is closed for maintenance, departures are diverted to Runway 28L (which faces 280 degrees on the compass). However, Runway 28L is only 6,213 feet long and is not designed for take-offs of fully loaded Boeing 727 and larger aircraft. Departures overfly Maitland Street and Mecartney Road, the middle of Harbor Bay’s communities. Noise levels heard in Harbor Bay are up to four times those from Runway 30. Worse yet, the risk of a departure accident is raised manifold, placing our communities in physical jeopardy. And, believe it or not, every pilot is able to choose a departure runway. Thus, any pilot who chooses convenience over the neighborhood’s safety and serenity can depart from Runway 28.
So, what can you do? Let your voice be heard! Every consumer complaint is recorded and tabulated. Oakland International Airport makes a great contribution to the East Bay, and it is concerned about its relationship with surrounding communities. But reminders of the discomforts and dangers it produces help shape its policies. To complain about any departure from OAK, visit the CLASS website www.classalameda.com , or call Oakland Airport Noise at 510-563-6463.
Victor Cordell, Phd