The loud interruptions we all com-plane about


Lucy Jaffee, Editor-in-Chief

It’s a bird…It’s a plane…It’s another plane? Seriously? 

Students attending classes both virtually and in-person can attest to the constant interruptions and loud noises caused  by planes flying past campus. Whether one is trying to have a leisurely conversation with a friend, listening to an important announcement made by a teacher, or making a phone call, all members of the LJCDS community are well aware of the presence of air traffic during school hours. Perhaps only aviation fanatics interspersed throughout our campus understand the purpose of these planes and why they always fly past LJCDS, while everyone merely shrugs off this annoyance. Rolling our eyes each time a plane flies past is a reasonable and justifiable reaction. It seems unfair though to constantly complain about the planes with no intention to educate oneself on their presence (guilty as charged). 

An initial, and naive assumption about our frequent flyers may be that they are airplanes used to transport travelers and cargo, known as airliners. While staring directly up at the sun is not recommended for optical safety reasons, when was the last time a shiny, blue Southwest aircraft was spotted above LJCDS? Exactly. Considering the campus is situated almost 15 miles from San Diego International Airport, it’s highly unlikely these disturbances are caused by commercial airplanes. We are, however, less than four miles away from the Marine Corps Air Station at Miramar or MCAS Miramar. 

Despite a proposition in the early 2000s that attempted to add a commercial airport to MCAS Miramar, the location, developed during World War I, has been home to various Marine Corps’ unit headquarters and aircrafts. And, in non-Covid times, MCAS Miramar organizes the Miramar Airshow to display military and civilian aircrafts, impressing crowds of close to 700,000 people annually. Most of these planes are brought in specifically for the show and are not seen flying from the base. The aircrafts that continually reside on the base vary from helicopters used to transport resources, supplies, or troops to larger airplanes intended to perform airstrikes using missiles or electromagnetic energy. These aircrafts make up squadrons targeted for a specific function, whether it be directly supporting other branches of the military domestically or internationally, or used as training for military pilots. Considering there are no current instances that require the majority of these squadrons to be elsewhere in the world, they mostly remain now at MCAS Miramar, leading to an increase in aircraft at the base, and subsequently more noise. 

Photo credit: Wikipedia

The types of aircraft stationed at the base also impact the amount of noise they emit. Increased activity of a specific plane, for example, the high-pitched F-35, may result in a louder or more obnoxious noise than the same level of activity of a helicopter half (or more) of its size. As a result, before new aircrafts are introduced to the base, MCAS Miramar conducts studies that factor in noise concerns and the public opinion of affected areas in deciding whether to finalize the addition. Individuals may also be more sensitive to newer planes that produce unfamiliar sounds. 

LJCDS is not alone in complaining about the noise coming from MCAS Miramar. Residents of University City, Mira Mesa, La Jolla, and even Carmel Valley are subject to the same occurrence. Chances are that remote students may be hearing the same aircrafts as their in-person classmates. To prevent public outrage from escalating, MCAS Miramar advises citizens to contact the Operations Duty Officer with specific noise complaints, requiring that one can name the type of aircraft being complained about. Considering the base’s commitment to efficient and safe operations, one citizen complaint is unlikely to erase any given location from a flight path or remove a particularly noisy plane altogether. MCAS Miramar also holds a monthly Community Leaders Forum where flight operations and future events are discussed among San Diego Community Planning Groups consisting of members from different regions of San Diego County. 

Photo credit: MCAS Miramar Website

While the types of aircraft that fly over LJCDS may vary from day to day or year to year, guidance set by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) designs flight patterns to increase the productivity of MCAS Miramar’s squadrons and units, ensuring that these paths remain consistent unless an emergency arises. FAA instructions are considered in producing MCAS Miramar’s Air Installations and Compatible Use Zones Update, which outlines which regions of San Diego coincide with flight traffic and where noise concerns may be the most apparent. Unfortunately, LJCDS resides in the busiest area and will likely always be subject to loud interruptions. Awkwardly pausing in the middle of a sentence to let a plane fly by will remain characteristic of the school experience unless substantial changes occur. Looking optimistically at the situation, noise from MCAS Miramar will continue to unite our community by relishing in its annoyance


Cover photo credit: Wikipedia