Does Ocean Beach Have to Take All the Helicopters? LA Isn’t.

by on August 16, 2012 · 40 comments

in Civil Rights, Environment, Ocean Beach, Popular

The sounds of low-flying helicopters over Ocean Beach and Point Loma have been an occasional sore-spot among some of our bloggers.  We’d raise more questions than answers, for example, Judi Curry queried as a troubled insomniac:

It almost appears that there is a heliport only blocks from the house, because nightly there are any number of helicopters that fly over the house at all hours of the late night and early morning. Helicopters that are loud; noise polluters; and wake people from deep as well as fitful sleep.

So…what are they doing here? Why are they flying over the house to go to the ocean? Where did they come from? What are they looking for? And why must they fly over the area at 1:00, 2:00, 3:00am?

In checking with the Airport Noise Control, I was told that these helicopters are coming from North Island. If that is so, then the question again arises: why are they coming over land?

Six months later, in a subsequent post, Judi wrote: The helicopters are still making their early morning run over Ocean Beach.

And in that column, after Judi outlined her complaint once again, she issued a call for other OBceans and Point Lomans to follow her lead and make calls and complain:

I can’t tell you how many times, just in the last week, I was awakened by the sound of helicopters overhead between the hours of 11:30pm and 6:30am. When I did a small investigation of why this is happening, I was told that there were several reasons: One, there are more “drug boaters” – what else do you call them – that are bringing drugs onto our shores between Coronado and Oceanside. Then I was told that there is also the military doing training at night. And another reason, I was told, was because of the News Helicopters chasing a story.

That’s all well and good. But can someone tell me why they have to fly over our houses to get to the Pacific Ocean, night after night after night? Some of the copters are, I was told, Coast Guard helicopters. They take off from San Diego Bay; some are military taking off from North Island; some take off from Brown Field; some take off from Miramar and even more astounding, some take off from Montgomery Field. All of these helicopters training over our coastline? Doesn’t sound very safe to me.

So…I now have a telephone number that we can call to register our complaints. One is the FAA in the regional office in Los Angeles. That office covers San Diego too. Their telephone number is 1-310-725-3550. There is another number to call also and that is close to Montgomery Field. That number is 1-858-502-9882. I was also told it is ok to call the FAA number to report noisy aircraft and register a complaint. (Wish I had known that number yesterday, the 15th at 9:04am and this morning, the 16th at 7:40am.)

Unless we as a community complain, the noise is going to get worse. Many voices are more effective than just one – or two – every few days.

With this “call” – Judi hit a home run. She received over 60 comments and lots of internet traffic – which demonstrates to blog editors that there’s a lot of interest out there on this issue.

But much like issues in Southern California, they pass with the waves and the wind.  And OB hasn’t had a public discussion of helicopters and their noise for awhile

But that doesn’t mean other communities aren’t dealing with the very same problem.

Los Angeleanos Force Politicos To Deal With Helicopters

FAA officials and politicians got an earful last week when several hundred LA County residents crammed a public hearing, demanding that Congress and the Federal Aviation Administration do something about constant helicopter flights over their neighborhoods.

Residents from across LA – for two hours – vented about the noisy aircraft in front of Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Valley Village)- who had called the public hearing in Sherman Oaks – and top members of the FAA, including William C. Withycombe – who is the regional administrator for California and three other Western states.

People in the audience told the hearing officials that they’d had enough of helicopters, of being shaken to the core, had enough of the thump-thump-thump of the rotators, they’d had enough of both public and private helicopters cutting through their communities, of news helicopters chasing crime scenes, of tourist and paparazzi (remember this is LA). Recently, a copter had buzzed the Hollywood Bowl, interrupting a concert violinist (“an outrage,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky). The Bowl gets helos up to 9 a night.

Bob Anderson of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association told the official:

“Media, tour operators and paparazzi – these combine to provide significant activity and noise pollution. Enforceable, legal restrictions are necessary.”

According to the LA Times, there are fewer restrictions on helicopters than airplanes. {lanes must fly at an altitude of at least 1,000 feet above heavily populated areas and 500 feet over less congested areas, but the copters do not have to comply with the minimum requirements if they don’t endanger lives or property.  “Unlike airplanes, helicopters are mostly unregulated,” said Berman.

Someone else was listening as well. On Tuesday, August 14th, the LA City Council  backed legislation that would allow the FAA to increase the regulation of helicopter flights across the county. They endorsed Rep Berman’s bill, which if passed by Congress, would direct the FAA to establish flight paths for helicopters and set minimum altitudes at which they can operate over certain areas of the county.

(The following sources were used:  Contra Costa Times, August 6, 2012;  LAT August 8, 2012 ; LAT August 14, 2012 ;


{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

Christopher Moore August 16, 2012 at 3:06 pm

The Marines, Navy, & Coast Guard fly mostly just off the shoreline (out past the pier), and usually during the day.

The ones that circle overhead low and shake everything are almost always the police “ghetto birdies” overseeing traffic stops and the like.

I’ve seen the news copters a few times, but not terribly often.

Paparazzi copters – not so much… LA can keep them.


dave rice August 17, 2012 at 9:26 pm

The ghetto birds especially love buzzing my apartment repeatedly this time of year midday on the weekends – I think they’re watching the twin coves at the end of Santa Cruz for suspicious activity (beer drinking, dogs off leashes) before sending in revenue enhancement officials to write tickets.


John August 16, 2012 at 5:51 pm

The usual culprit of early morning/late night helo noise is the police…unless you live directly on the coastline. Military helicopters don’t circle and shine a light down at the ground into OB.

From the police point of view, the need to do their job over-weighs the audible comfort of the citizens below. They would rather have safe and tired people than well rested victims. So, to make OB a quieter place we need to reduce crime and get rid of the losers and criminals, but, I would rather hear more helicopters than see gentrification so I don’t know what to do. A little intolerance towards scum bag people couldn’t hurt.


dave rice August 17, 2012 at 9:34 pm

Good point – the prevalence of ghetto birds, along with tolerance for the homeless, an overabundance of bars and liquor stores, and other negative factors like the flight path that passes straight through the heart of town are what keeps OB at least a little bit undesirable, and thus just marginally affordable for undesirables like me.

If the trade-off is kicking my family out of our apartment so someone can build a single-family McMansion where six families (excuse me Frank, three families, a single guy, and two sets of roommates) live, bring on the choppers, hueys, ghetto birds, whatever!


unWASHEdwalmaRtthONG August 17, 2012 at 9:57 am

Turn all those surveillance cameras upwards to view the choppers making noise.
How do we request a meeting w/ FAA officials?


judi Curry August 17, 2012 at 10:29 am

How interesting that you have brought this up, Frank, because I was in the middle of writing another article re: the noise from the helicopters that would be ready for you tomorrow. Instead let me tell you my latest complaint: The helicopters that are going over in the middle of the night are MILITARY HELICOPTERS! They are not police or television helicopters. I understand when those are overhead – in fact, an arrest was made just a few nights ago when a Panga was discovered coming ashore close to my home. I have no complaints – well, some, about the police, the coast guard, and the reporters,etc. but I do have complaints about the Military. And, to make matters worse, they seem to travel in pairs, triplets and sometimes even more. There is no question about who they are: They are louder; sometimes lower; and make the house shake. And, to make matters worse, it appears that planes from Lindbergh field are also coming over the house – we are not in the flight pattern – at a higher frequency. Are they aborted landings? Who knows, because I get the same run-around now that I got in 1968 when I first questioned the airplanes overhead. And it is not just me. A new neighbor asked me if I had the airplane complaint number because of all the planes that are flying overhead. The phone number hasn’t changed – 619-400-2799 – but it appears that the flight pattern may be changing. Is it because of the changes made to the terminal? I don’t know that either, but it has been a long time since I have had a soundless sleep and it is not getting any better. I still do not get answers from North Island when I question the helicopters crossing the land to get to the ocean – but I welcome John and Chris to spend a night with me and “hear what I hear”!


Goatskull August 17, 2012 at 6:11 pm

Just out of curiosity, who do you call over at North Island?


judi Curry August 17, 2012 at 6:18 pm



Goatskull August 20, 2012 at 2:45 pm
judi Curry August 20, 2012 at 2:49 pm

My browser will not let me access the site. Says it is “suspect.” Funny. It’s the Government, isn’t it?????


Goatskull August 20, 2012 at 3:31 pm

It is. CNIC (Commander, Naval Instillations Command.) Odd because it’s supposed to be open to the public. Specifically that’s a noise complaint form.


judi Curry August 20, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Here’s the message I received:
This Connection is Untrusted

You have asked Firefox to connect
securely to, but we can’t confirm that your connection is secure.
Normally, when you try to connect securely,
sites will present trusted identification to prove that you are
going to the right place. However, this site’s identity can’t be verified.

What Should I Do?

If you usually connect to
this site without problems, this error could mean that someone is
trying to impersonate the site, and you shouldn’t continue.

Technical Details

I Understand the Risks


Goatskull August 20, 2012 at 7:02 pm

Well it IS a trusted site as I used it everyday in my job, and I just clicked on the site now at home and had no problems. If you keep getting that message though I wouldn’t take any chances. I’m not a enough of a techie to know why that’s happening. I would recommend tying the link on a computer in a library or if you don’t mind paying a few dollars maybe a fedex/Kinkos?


judi Curry August 20, 2012 at 7:44 pm

Strange that you could access it and I couldn’t. The number I called – the one you asked for – is also the noise complaint desk at North Island. I wonder if you have access because you worked there? I will do some more checking.


Goatskull August 20, 2012 at 8:57 pm

I did try it at home and had no problems. Like I said try it on another computer when yow get a chance.

Goatskull August 20, 2012 at 7:04 pm

That;s of course assuming you don’t get that error message.


unWASHEdWalmaRtthONG August 17, 2012 at 12:25 pm

Dear Judi,
How many of us may spend the night w/ you?


judi Curry August 17, 2012 at 1:40 pm

You – plus anyone you want to add. Big back yard – But be careful – you know I am looking for a man!


joyce August 17, 2012 at 2:08 pm

yes….i live just south of point loma ave…more and more airplanes coming over…..and the 2am, 3 am helicopters are very disturbing….wth


judi Curry August 17, 2012 at 2:56 pm

We must live fairly close to each other Joyce. That is my complaint, also. And…if the airport closes at 11:30pm, what are all the big aircraft doing flying over our homes?


dave rice August 17, 2012 at 9:55 pm

Now that I read more (and yes, I realize I’m spamming up the thread with my comments, sorry), it occurs to me that it seems like I’m noticing a lot more planes flying past curfew these days. I’m still on the edge of OB (near Coronado & Cable) rather than in the Sunset Cliffs/Point Loma where you ladies are, but either I’m crazy or there are more planes flying overhead at more varied hours than ever.

In my early twenties I lived a mile or so north (Abbott and W. Pt. Loma), and there I swore there was a guide beacon on top of my place that made sure every single jet rocked my house in 90 second intervals – it was so bad that I gave up watching TV, which today I’m glad I did. But the first few years of moving south it seemed like things were a lot mellower than they’ve been the last year or so…


judi Curry August 18, 2012 at 8:43 am

I think you are right, Dave. It does seem noisier, but then again I have more windows opened. But when I look at the clock it is usually past 11:30. I know that the planes coming in from other places can land after 11:30, but there must be a lot of missed approaches to have them come over us so often.


Catherine Hockmuth August 22, 2012 at 11:10 am

I was recently on a flight that was cancelled and deplaned at 11:45 because we were past the curfew so they do seem to abide by it, which I appreciate. Except when I’m the one on the plane!


unWASHEdWalmaRtthONG August 17, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Planespotters. We need info, #’s, photos of aircraft causing problems.
Then go go FAA.


judi Curry August 17, 2012 at 2:57 pm

So…when you spend the night, bring your camera.


unWASHEdWalmaRtthONG August 17, 2012 at 5:08 pm

Planespotters helped to expose the CIA’s “extraordinary renditions,” a disgusting practice that many have forgotten.


Irene August 17, 2012 at 7:06 pm

I live in Santee,I also hear the helicopters, 11:30 last night where are they coming from? Sounds like they are going west.


judi Curry August 17, 2012 at 7:41 pm

They are, babe, they are!


judi Curry August 17, 2012 at 9:40 pm

While we are talking of noise – does Sea World seem louder to you than ever before? Buddy was used to the noise for the past 10 years. This month he cowers at 8:51 when Sea World starts their fireworks. What’s with that?


dave rice August 17, 2012 at 10:00 pm

Interesting response from one of my Twitter followers who I shared this article with (they’re of all stripes and creeds): It’s the “Sound of Freedom.”


Catherine Hockmuth August 22, 2012 at 11:18 am

Yes! The Sea World fireworks are a menace. Anyone wanting to form an alliance against them is okay by me. I will join you. Also, all the illegal street fireworks in the area from Robb Field to Cape May all summer long. And the overwhelming number of illegal fireworks on the beach and surrounding area on July 4th that the police ignored despite the size of their presence that day and which built up to a very threatening, crazy, Lord of the Flies-esque scene post-fireworks. I complained to the police about their lack of action on that issue and was told that there were no major incidents that day so, all is well. Apparently, the watch tower and swarms of vehicles were there to stamp out major incidents/riots and such, but not for just regular proactive, community policing. The latter is my interpretation of what they told me, not something they actually said.


Mary Cairns August 19, 2012 at 10:51 am

Good day. I, too, would like to see a community meeting on the increased activity, and to understand the current FAA regulations the Controllers are following for arrivals and departures. A couple nights ago after 11p there was a helicopter overhead and my cat started growing and hissing at the window. There is a nice web site (with a little delay built in) to see all of the air traffic in and out of SAN area, and it does include military aircraft and helicopters. You can find it at: . You can get past data there too. I retired at the end of 2010 from the FAA, working in improving weather. I worked with a prior controller for the SAN area, and asked him about the departures that seemed to be going more to the south closer to my Mom’s house at Del Mar and Santa Barbara. Well, this was during construction of the new runway, and he called a buddy of his that was working for arrivals/departures. He reported back to me that there were regulations to not go out of the 260 deg path, but in many cases the Controllers let the pilots go out of that (more like 250) without saying anything. It’s the controllers job to keep them with in the departure routes – so we should really have an FAA representative to go over the rules here. I do know there is the “last flight” time, but incoming planes e.g. from the east and central US can land after that curfew. There is the Peninsula Community Planning Board Airport Committee ( but I don’t know what they are currently doing. I had heard at one point there was a request of a state audit for the path issues. Perhaps this Committee is one that can call a meeting on this.


judi Curry August 19, 2012 at 11:10 am

Thanks Mary. I used to attend the PCPB meeting regularly but stopped when I found it was a waste of time. Cynthia Conger, a Realtor in Pt. Loma that happens to live on Pt. Loma Ave. attends all the time and sends me updates on what is happening. But I have been vocal on this since 1968 when only PSA was the large airline using LF. You can see where it got me. I am going to forward your comments to her and see what she has to offer. Thanks for your interest. I remember when my daughter lived in North Park at the time of the PSA crash and I couldn’t get in touch with her for hours. I don’t want the same thing happening over our house. Just an aside; yesterday, while walking Buddy at about 5:00pm on Sunset Cliffs, I saw an airplane carrying a banner make a 180 degree turn right over Garbage. I was shocked. That flyway is used so often by everyone. I was amazed that there was not an accident there too. Something else to worry about!


Gristmiller August 20, 2012 at 8:06 am

OB is a better place thanks to your activism Ms Curry!


judi Curry August 20, 2012 at 9:13 am

Thank you very much. But the credit goes to those activists that haven’t given up.


judi Curry August 21, 2012 at 6:54 am

Mary, I just received this note from Cynthia Conger. The meeting she is referring to is today, Tuesday.

Hi Judi,

Meeting tomorrow on ALUCP (new) covers more areas, flight paths, should cover new necessary land sales disclosures on safety, noise, etc. with increases. All done during summer, when most are either on vacation or busy with family, when schools are out…

This person’s comments will probably never see the light of day or will become moot with the increased çoverage’of thetake-off paths.

Cynthia Conger


judi Curry August 20, 2012 at 8:29 pm

Hi Everyone, This just came through to me from Cynthia Conger, who is very active in the airport noise group:

Spread the news..& If you can’t make the August 21st meeting..ask for a download of presentation to comment!

The ‘new’Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan…More Noise Planned-More routes for safety over homes, over many new areas…with ’50+ more planes per day’ planned…Plus, more Disclosures to sell/buy a home….property values? New requirements.. What do you think?

Cynthia Conger

Reminder- the Airport Authority is holding an SDIA ALUCP Steering Committee meeting on Tuesday, August 21, 2012. In acknowledgement of your work during this process, this meeting is open only to invited active members of the Steering Committee and will focus on questions, comments, or clarifications you may have on the content of the draft ALUCP. Copies of the draft plan will not be available at the meeting. Please note that this meeting is in addition to our ongoing public outreach opportunities and is being held specifically in response to Steering Committee requests to review the document prior to public review, which will occur later this year.

Comments may be submitted via, at the August 21st meeting or by mail to Angie Jamison (SDCRAA, PO Box 82776, San Diego, CA 92138-2776) by August 31st. If you did not have a chance to download the draft ALUCP from the you send it link before it expired, please reply to this email.


Sierra August 21, 2012 at 9:48 pm

We live off the end of West Point Loma, right before Ebers, and get a helicopter (same one? different one?) every night around 12. Have taken to calling it the midnight helicopter and will often text/tweet neighbors complaining about it. It’s become a nightly ritual, of sorts. “good old midnight helicopter!”. Sarcastically, of course, it’s impossible to keep the windows open at night and during the hot nights we’ve been having lately it really sucks.


charkes operhimwr April 11, 2015 at 7:35 pm

You guys are talking like we actually have any rights about the noise or the number of flights or how low and how loud they fly. We have no right no say and in their eyes no right to talK or express any opinion about these things. At least I feel that way . Good luck to u all.


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