FAQs Regarding Aircraft Activity and Noise at Palm Springs International Airport

How do I file a complaint about a specific aircraft noise incident?

To understand how to voice a complaint about an aircraft incident, it is important to first understand who has jurisdiction over aircraft.  Here is the general answer:

1. While aircraft are on the ground on the property of the airport, the airport is responsible for any noise emanating from that aircraft. Therefore, if you have a concern about an aircraft on the ground at the airport creating abnormally long periods of noise, please contact the Palm Springs International Airport 24-hour aircraft noise reporting line at (760) 318 3800, extension 5276, where you can leave a detailed recorded message about your concern.  If you request, airport operations staff personnel will attempt a return call whenever possible, so please include your name, address, phone number, and the date and time of the event. When calling the noise line, please include as much detail about the event as possible, with specific times and duration of event.

2. Once the aircraft is off the ground and in the air it is under the jurisdiction of the Federal Aviation Administration. This jurisdiction includes aircraft flight paths, which are not under the control of the airport. If your concern is about an aircraft that is in flight and further than eight miles from the airport and you want to voice a concern, please contact the Federal Aviation Administration’s Western-Pacific Region office at (424) 405 8020, or  through their web site by clicking on the following link:  https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/arc/western_pacific/.  

Is there an opportunity for the public to comment on noise?

The Airport Commission Noise Committee meets quarterly in January, April, July and October, on the third Wednesday of the month at 4:00 P.M.  Residents are welcome to attend and can submit comments.  Currently, due to COVID-19, meetings are held via videoconference.  Agendas are posted at least seventy-two hours in advance on the City of Palm Springs calendar at this link: https://www.palmspringsca.gov/services/event-calendar  and on the airport website at the following link:  https://palmspringsairport.com/business  

There are periodic helicopter flights occurring at different hours of the night.  What is the reason for this?

Helicopters are much more versatile than fixed wing aircraft.  For this reason, law enforcement, ambulance services, hospitals, utilities, and other types of industries use helicopters for a variety of special purposes. These include police related matters, emergency evacuation or transport of injured humans or organs for transplant, community health, utility power outages and repairs, and other types of utilitarian activities that can develop at any hour of the day and night and usually do not originate or terminate at PSP but from either of the other two airports in the Coachella Valley or from another location.

It is not unusual for Palm Springs International Airport to receive calls regarding helicopter noise issues generated by activity not utilizing the airport.  We have no information about or influence over helicopter flights that do not involve the airport. Some helicopter operations brought to the airport’s attention serve the nearby Palm Springs Desert Regional Medical Center as medical evacuation flights.  If you have a specific concern about these flights, usually occurring in the neighborhoods around the intersection of North Indian Canyon Drive and Tachevah Drive, please contact the hospital directly at (760) 323 6524.

Is it accurate that Palm Springs International Airport is growing and how big will it get? How does the Covid-19 pandemic affect this growth?

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Palm Springs International Airport had grown over the previous decade.  That growth is best identified in terms of airline passengers flying into and out of the airport. Prior to the pandemic, calendar year 2020 was forecast to be another record year with about 2.6 million passengers serviced through eleven airlines. Although passenger activity was growing, the actual number of aircraft flying into and out of the airport had remained relatively stagnant.  This is because the airlines were operating with higher load factors (more passengers per aircraft) and increased size of aircraft from the 50-70 seat regional jets to the 130-150 seat medium jets.  This resulted in fewer flights arriving and departing and less impact to surrounding communities.  The following chart illustrates how over the period from 2013 to 2020, the total number of all aircraft (airlines + corporate + general aviation + military) has been trending.

Noise Abatement - Airline Movements and Passengers

YEARSAIRLINE MOVEMENTSAIRLINE PASSENGERS
201331,4581,752,180
201433,2431,914,402
201529,7281,888,657
201630,6721,998,206
201729,5942,100,072
201832,0982,327,018
201935,6472,563,955
202026,2221,252,094

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted the entire aviation industry, and all aircraft activity has decreased significantly.  Experts are indicating that it will take many years for any airport to reach the level of activity the industry had pre-pandemic. This naturally will result in much less aircraft-related noise.

Why is it that we often hear news about the airport expansion?

What has been in the news about PSP are ongoing existing facility improvements, not expansion of the runways for aircraft to land on.  There is no need, nor are there plans, to expand the airport’s airfield because its utilization rate is well below capacity.  The only components of the airport that have been identified as needing capacity enhancements are the structures that process passengers, including a remodel and modernization of the main terminal, the construction of a new car rental facility, and the remodeling of the terminal’s baggage claim area.

The military fly the noisiest aircraft.  Why do they use Palm Springs International Airport, and can we stop them from using the airport?

The military does fly some aircraft that are very noisy.  Military use of Palm Springs International Airport is not new as these flights have been here since the airport’s origination as a military airfield in the 1940s. During World War II the Army constructed the airfield here, and after their use, the City of Palm Springs took possession of the airport in 1961 and converted it into a municipal airport. Since the federal government released the land to Palm Springs, and has provided tens of millions of grant funding from the Federal Aviation Administration to help construct runways, lighting systems, terminal buildings, and a control tower, the airport is required to allow the federal government to use its facilities for perpetuity.  This means the City of Palm Springs cannot prevent United States military aircraft from using the airport. Not only does the U.S. military use other civilian airports around the country, in many instances they have military bases on airport property. Palm Springs International Airport does not have any military facilities or aircraft based on airport property, but the airport does experience military aircraft landings mostly related to fuel and rest stops, and some practice takeoff and landings.

If the airport cannot deny the military use of the airport, why can’t the airport at least tell them when they can operate?

As explained in the previous answer, Palm Springs International Airport cannot prohibit the military from using the airport when they need to.  However, we do convey messaging to the military to avoid noise sensitive hours and, overall, the military has been responsive to that request by keeping the majority of operations to the daytime when they have discretion to do so.

Helicopter pilots, click on links below for Good Neighbor Information

Military Aviators, click on link below for Good Neighbor Information

Dear Military Aviators,

We are proud of your fine service and appreciate you electing to use the Palm Springs International Airport.  We wish you a safe flight and ask that you please only use “Good Neighbor” flying procedures in respect of the residential areas that surround this airport.

Thank you,

Airport Management