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FAQs Regarding Aircraft Activity and Noise at Palm Springs International Airport

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?

Palm Springs International Airport has grown, and that growth is best identified in terms of airline passengers flying into and out of the airport. Although passenger activity is growing, the actual number of aircraft flying into and out of the airport had remained relatively stagnant. This is because airlines are operating with higher load factors (more passengers per aircraft) and they have  increased the size of aircraft from 50-70 seat aircraft to 130-190 seat aircraft. This has resulted in roughly the same number of flights arriving and departing and less impact to surrounding communities.  The following chart illustrates how over the period from 2015 to 2022, the total number of all aircraft operations (airlines + corporate + general aviation + military) has been trending.

2022: 46,903 as of 10/31/22   

2021: 53,816     2020: 40,634     2019: 54,550    2018: 53,490     2017: 48,624     2016: 57,091     2015: 50,840

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

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 HERE, and on the airport website HERE.

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. Is the Aircraft in the air? 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 Palm Springs International 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 HERE.

2. Is the aircraft on the ground at PSP? 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 Palm Springs International Airport creating abnormally long periods of noise, please complete this Noise Comment Form, and we will look into it.

3. Concerned about noise at Jacqueline Cochran Regional Airport or Crown Aero (Bermuda Dunes Airport)? Please contact those airports directly as they are not owned or operated by the City of Palm Springs.