s
s
Sections
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, nearly 1.5 million people used their mobile devices to visit our sites.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Wow! You read a lot!
Reading enhances confidence, empathy, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction. Keep it up! Subscribe.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
Until next month, you can always look over someone's shoulder at the coffee shop.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, we posted 390 stories about the fire. And they were shared nearly 137,000 times.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Supporting the community that supports us.
Obviously you value quality local journalism. Thank you.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
We miss you already! (Subscriptions start at just 99 cents.)
Already a subscriber?
iPhone

It looks like the contentious issue of noise generated by airplanes flown by a Cloverdale skydiving operation is not going to be resolved any time soon.

Cloverdale city officials are hoping to broker some type of compromise that would keep NorCal Skydiving aloft without ongoing complaints from residents who describe a “high, horrible buzz” and “tortuous” din from the company’s airplanes.

After a hearing lasting more than three hours Tuesday morning, members of a City Council airport subcommittee said they want to bring in an expert — likely an attorney versed in aviation issues — to explain the city’s options for regulating the business.

Mayor Bob Cox said NorCal is a viable business that has been “attempting to modify the situation,” but he also acknowledged “maybe more can be done.”

“Hopefully we can bring this to a resolution for all concerned,” he said.

NorCal co-owner Jimmy Halliday said his company has taken a number of measures to try and cut down the noise, changing airplanes and flight routes.

“There’s not much more we can continue to do and safely operate the skydiving facility,” he told the subcommittee Tuesday.

“Our ability to do something is limited,” said City Manager Paul Cayler, who added “it needs to be explored in more detail.”

Police Chief Mark Tuma, who also serves as Cloverdale Airport manager, said the Federal Aviation Administration basically targets large jets for noise requirements and it would be practically impossible for the city to pay for an expensive study to justify regulating noise at the small general aviation airport.

FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said in an email Tuesday that his agency “does not regulate noise. However, speaking generally and not in relation to this situation, the FAA sometimes works with airports, pilots and community groups to try to address noise issues.”

Cloverdale officials noted that disputes over aircraft noise have erupted in the recent past at nearby airports, including Healdsburg and Willits.

Officials noted the skydiving company increases tourist revenue and the Cloverdale Airport is also an important base for firefighting and medical flights.

Some pilots who spoke Tuesday feared the complaints about the skydiving operation could lead to restrictions on other airport operations.

“I’m very concerned this is the tip of the iceberg,” said Raymond Shipway, who owns a hangar at the airport. He said once NorCal is dealt with, opponents will “come after other folks who come in and out” of the airport.

Joaquin Espinosa, who lives three miles from the airport, said the noise from the airplanes doesn’t bother him.

“It’s part of living. I hope we can keep them in Cloverdale,” he said of the skydiving company.

Cloverdale residents disturbed by the engine noise did get a temporary reprieve last weekend when the skydiving company suspended operations because of problems with its state corporate license.

The owners acknowledged they had failed to pay a $58 tax bill, but said it was because one of them changed address and did not receive the tax notice.

“We’ve fixed it,” said Halliday, adding that it typically takes seven to 14 business days for the license to be reinstated and the company to be back flying.

Tuesday’s hearing, attended by about 50 people, was rancorous at times, with some speakers claiming the city has been dragging its feet on the noise issue that surfaced some time ago.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help reunite Carmina Salcido and her daughter, Zophia. To donate, go here

Top stories of 2014

“For two years, I’ve essentially been under house arrest,” said Eileen Mullinaux, who said the flights over her Crocker Ranch Estates home east of the airport have shattered the quality of life for her and other residents.

She said she knew about the Cloverdale airport’s proximity when she moved to her River Road home 12 years ago, but the constant parachuting flights take it to another level. “No one expected a theme park,” she said.

She said the skydiving planes make a 20-minute loop up and down Alexander Valley before launching skydivers.

Mullinaux told the City Council subcommittee it amounted to “dumping of noise over communities that don’t vote for you.”

But Cayler denied that less attention is paid to neighbors of the airport just because they live outside city limits.

Councilwoman Carol Russell said “I can assure you we take it very seriously.”

A steady parade of speakers complained of the noise negatively affecting everything from their property values to their health.

An Asti Ridge Road resident said the low loop of the skydiving planes “sounds like a lawn mower, all day long.”

The company generally operates from Wednesday through Sunday with flights beginning around 10 a.m. and lasting until dusk.

One speaker, Reece Foxen, a self-described former pilot who lives more than three miles from the airport, described the noise from the skydiving planes when they take off as “awful … it permeates everything.”

She suggested that the Cessna 182 planes should carry less weight, or take off at a less steep angle.

Halliday said his company has done a number of things, from getting rid of a turbo prop plane that was the source of complaints last year, to avoiding flying over areas where people have complained.

After a city meeting almost a year ago when noise complaints were aired and he subsequently met with residents “I thought we were going to fix the problem, fix it right, fix it good.”

Instead, changing the flight patterns seemed to have spurred even more complaints, Cox said.

“It’s like squeezing a balloon. It has to go somewhere,” Cox said of the airplane din.

Halliday said another issue is that winds change — especially from summer to winter — and pilots have to adapt their landing and take-off approaches accordingly.

“If I could find one magic pattern, one way of flying, I would do it every time,” he said.

There has been skydiving at the Cloverdale airport for almost 20 years, beginning with another company before NorCal began operations about six years ago.

In 2013, NorCal conducted about 4,500 jumps, and 2014 had about the same number, Halliday said.

“We have an absolutely fantastic relationship with the FAA,” Halliday added, explaining that the company is inspected regularly and his No. 1 goal is safety.

One speaker on Tuesday, Patrick Paquette, insisted that NorCal had no right to even be heard at the hearing because of non-payment of property taxes and the suspension of its corporate license with the secretary of state.

Halliday acknowledged that he was in a dispute with the county over property taxes, but said that was because some airplanes had been “mis-assigned” to his company.

NorCal co-owner Dan Hennage said the company has paid more than $15,000 in state taxes.

You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or clark.mason@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @clarkmas.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of this story contained an inaccurate description of the location of Joaquin Espinosa’s home in relation to the Cloverdale Airport. The man’s last name was also misspelled.

Show Comment