Opinion: Action Needed on Aircraft Noise

Image of Natomas suburb, primarily residential housing, taken from an airplane.

Natomas residential neighborhood as viewed from a commercial airplane. / NatomasBuzz.com Photo

FOR THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz

The Federal Aviation Administration has opened a comment period on its routing of the Sacramento International Airport takeoff trajectory directly over Natomas. The FAA is reviewing what is referred to as the “NextGen” policy implemented locally in 2015, and is considering the noise issues low-flying planes have created over residential areas across the country.

Previously, aircraft taking off from Sacramento International Airport followed a trajectory over open land owned by the county. We need your help to convince the FAA to return the takeoff path to that safer route.

The more people who comment, the greater chances we have that the FAA will take notice of the unhealthy disruption this takeoff trajectory has created in our homes, schools and lives. Planes are traveling fuller, and cargo planes are getting older. Both contribute to the recent drastic increase in noise levels that stop conversations, awaken us at 5:30 a.m. and force us to keep windows closed.

A group of residents has been working for years to get the FAA to mitigate NextGen impacts, and finally an official comment period has opened. The noise group recently circulated the letter below to members of HOAs in western Natomas, where dozens of residents already have told the FAA what they think.

We need the help of everyone in Natomas to accomplish this formidable challenge. Our group hopes that you read the following letter and use the link provided to make your voices heard in Washington. The deadline to submit public comment is July 31, 2023.


The Federal Aviation Administration is accepting comments that could lead to returning the SMF southbound takeoff route away from our homes back to the historic path over miles of open land owned by the county.

The open space along the Garden Highway/Sacramento River was the safe and only takeoff route southbound planes took for decades. A few years ago, the FAA adopted NextGen, which changed the path to an immediate eastward trajectory over Natomas.

Now aircraft no longer reach a higher, quieter altitude before crossing over homes — risky for many reasons. The Sacramento International Airport is the No. 1 airport per capita for bird strikes, and there are many documented negative heart health impacts of jet noise and exhaust.

The FAA is assessing the impact of the NextGen routes nationwide and will make changes based on comments during the noise policy review.

Please help us get the FAA’s attention. Thank you for your quick action on this.

1. Click here to go to the Noise Policy Review | Federal Aviation Administration page (faa.gov)
2. Then click on:  Add your comments. Suggested comments:
a. I (we) request the FAA return air traffic at SMF to pre NextGen flight paths.  Aircraft on southbound takeoff should fly over vacant land, not densely populated residential areas, parks and schools, thus reducing safety and creating noise issues on the surrounding community.
b. Before “NextGen,” aircraft departing SMF flew due south over vacant land. After NextGen, flights were rerouted over densely populated residential areas, parks and schools posing significant health, safety and noise issues. Aircraft should be rerouted back to pre-NextGen routes so that they will once again fly over vacant land.

Tracie Cone lives in the Four Seasons at Westshore development and has been a Natomas resident for 11 years.

Image showing flight path and altitude of plane from Sacramento International Airport over residential neighborhood.

NextGen flight path allows sharp eastern turn at a low altitude over residential areas and two school sites, as seen in this image. Return to the older flight path would require planes to fly further north or south (depending on which runway is operating) gaining altitude over mostly unoccupied farmland before turning to the east. / Source: flightradar24

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