By Douglas W. Motley
Airliner and cargo plane traffic above Lake Arrowhead has returned to the area over the past several months. This despite the Federal Aviation Administration’s announcement last November of a new flight path that, beginning Dec. 5, was to have rerouted air traffic over the less populated Heaps Peak area.
This major concession by the FAA came as a result of pressure brought by local environmental groups, as well as Quiet Skies Lake Arrowhead and Friends of Lake Arrowhead.
That the FAA reneged on its promise has infuriated local residents, who complain of dangerously low-flying aircraft, loud noise and lost sleep.
“They come in from north to south very low over Cedar Ridge at, I would estimate, about 1,000 feet above the lake. They are very noisy and they wake me up at night,” Cedar Glen resident John Matthews told The Alpine Mountaineer last Friday.
The battle between Lake Arrowhead residents and the FAA had its genesis in the spring of 2017, when a series of community meetings were held in Blue Jay to discuss how the community could best persuade the FAA to discontinue its disruptive flight path above Lake Arrowhead. As more and more people showed up at these meetings, expressing their anguish, the meetings were shifted in the spring of 2018 to a larger venue at the Lake Arrowhead Resort, where representatives from the FAA were invited to express their side of the ongoing conflict.
Some 300 Lake Arrowhead area residents, weary from the 24-hour-a-day procession of cargo jets and airliners flying at near treetop level above their community, were not pleased when they heard FAA Regional Director Dennis Roberts’ proposal to shift the UPS cargo plane landing path to Ontario International Airport (ONT) 2.1 miles east of Lake Arrowhead between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. This did not set well with Skyforest residents, who would bear the brunt of the late night, early morning noise.
Noting that most of the airspace over Southern California is controlled by the military, Roberts explained that there is only a 21-mile-wide corridor available for aircraft approaching three Southland airports. “We have to have three miles separation between aircraft, which leaves us with a 15-mile corridor to run all aircraft through Southern California.”
He said the previous landing path to airports in Ontario, Orange County and Long Beach, which passed over Heaps Peak, is no longer an option because today’s modern jet airliners with their wing-tip winglets are not designed for the rapid descent posed by the higher elevation at that location. “The FAA found that the planes were coming in too fast and too hot, and they had to make go-arounds before landing,” Roberts said. Alleged safety issues posed by the Heaps Peak landing path resulted in the FAA rerouting air traffic over Lake Arrowhead, beginning on April 27, 2017.
According to 2nd District County Supervisor Janice Rutherford, the FAA decided in November 2019 to move the flight path eastward over Heaps Peak – despite its earlier assertion that it was unsafe to do so – to avoid flying over the populated areas of Lake Arrowhead.
“As for the FAA, I do not have any authority over a federal agency. I worked with FAA officials and others, including Congressman Cook and Senator Feinstein, to get the flight path over Lake Arrowhead changed and, late last year, the FAA announced it was canceling the route. However, the agency also noted that planes could continue to use the route if directed to do so by air traffic controllers. I’ve received other complaints about the noise recently, and I have shared those with the officials I’ve spoken with at the FAA. But, again, I am reliant on the FAA to make any changes or adjustments because neither I nor the county has any control over the agency,” Rutherford said on Sept. 2.
Noting that the FAA said it was closing down the flight path over Lake Arrowhead, David Caine, founder of Quiet Skies Lake Arrowhead, said on Sept. 2, “if they only stuck to their word, most of the people would be happy, but JCKIE2 (flight path above Heaps Peak) has slipped west, back over part of the lake and community, and the FAA seems not to care.” In the meantime, said Caine, planes continue flying overhead 24 hours a day.
Attempts to contact the FAA by phone and email for comment have gone unanswered as of press time. Those wanting to register complaints can try contacting the FAA by calling their Noise Information Line at (424) 405-8020, or by sending an email to [email protected].