The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has joined in a lawsuit against San Jose, California, challenging the city's nighttime curfew at San Jose International Airport (SJC).
In a "friend of the court" brief filed in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, AOPA argued that the city ordinance establishing a nighttime flight curfew based on aircraft weight was illegal under federal law and a violation of city agreements ("grant assurances") with the federal government.
"The curfew is unjustly discriminatory," said Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of regional affairs. "If the San Jose ordinance is allowed to stand, it opens the door to banning other types of aircraft like Bonanzas and Cessna 210s for no legitimate reason. Noise ordinances must be targeted at specific noise levels, not arbitrary selections of aircraft."
The San Jose ordinance mandates a curfew of 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. for jet aircraft weighing more than 75,000 pounds. According to the city, the ordinance is intended "to reduce the flight frequency in the most noise sensitive time periods by older and noisier jet aircraft."
AOPA told the court that a noise ordinance that "imposes restrictions on aircraft for reasons other than the noise produced by those aircraft [is] discriminatory and inconsistent with fair and efficient national air transportation."
AOPA pointed out that, by banning aircraft based on weight, the ordinance in fact allowed noisier aircraft to use the airport at night while prohibiting access by newer, quieter aircraft.
Since aircraft weight has no direct relationship to aircraft noise, the curfew was unjustly discriminatory against a class of aviation users. Federal law prohibits that.
AOPA had asked the FAA to review the legality of the ordinance back in September 1999. The agency is still considering the issue.
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, based outside Washington, D.C., represents more than 365,000 pilots who own or fly three quarters of the nation's 206,000 general aviation aircraft.
More than 47,000 California pilots are AOPA members.
December 21, 2000