From the ‘in case you noticed it too’ file: This afternoon’s flyover

Unusual aircraft sightings – from helicopters to commercial jetliners – often bring questions, and we try to get answers. Twice today, here in Upper Fauntleroy, we noticed loud flyovers; both times, we looked them up on our favorite flight tracker, and they were commercial flights from Sea-Tac. The second one, an hour or so ago, brought in questions, so we asked Sea-Tac Airport spokesperson Perry Cooper if anything unusual was happening at the airport. Cooper had information about the most recent flyover (which showed on our tracker as a Delta flight to Shanghai) and we thought we’d share it in case you heard/saw it too:

We were, and have been, in south flow today; however, the tail winds for south flow were too strong at the time for this widebody aircraft and the pilot requested to take off to the north. So, for only this aircraft, the traffic was spaced out so he could take off to the north. Due to the fact the rest of the traffic was coming into south flow, they directed the aircraft to turn quickly to the west to get out of the traffic flow as soon as possible. This pattern would be similar to what we see when the Blue Angels practice in the summer, and they direct traffic to turn more quickly to the west in north flow to stay out of their practice pattern. Some of our own Port staff were out in the field today and noticed it when it happened as well.

P.S. One of the people who also noticed this points out that Sea-Tac has a noise-complaint hotline. Reversing it in web search, we discovered the Sea-Tac and Boeing Field numbers are part of a city-prepared one-sheet with info on all types of possible noise, not just aircraft – you might want to save it.

6 Replies to "From the 'in case you noticed it too' file: This afternoon's flyover"

  • zephyr February 21, 2017 (4:16 pm)

    Thanks for checking on the flyover.  Sometimes when it happens it seems they are obviously so far off the normal flight patterns.   This story helps explain that.  And thanks for the Noise Abatement information.  That’s very handy.  

  • Gail February 21, 2017 (5:10 pm)

    Please note that homeowners in Burien have a grass roots effort to stop the propeller flights that are making a sharp turn west over the areas from Shorewood on the Sound to Three Tree Point. Visit Quiet Skies Coalition at to learn more and see the maps that show the current flight paths that do not adhere to the set flight path that we have known for years. This will ultimately affect West Seattle homeowners and have a serious impact to the value of our homes. The City of Burien has filed a petition against the Port to cease and desist those flights as the the Port has never completed an environmental review of the changed flight path.

    The Port stated at the 9/19/16 Burien Council meeting that they had “no idea” that the FAA was changing the flight path and allowing Alaskan propeller planes to make sharp turns west to “get out of the way” of the bigger jets. Citizens at the 9/19/16 meeting predicted that jets would be next… 

    Seriously, the Port states that it was the wind and that the pilot just “asked”, but when have we ever seen a jet head directly west except for the weekend of the Blue Angels. Sorry, I don’t buy it and I do not trust the Port. The Port needs to expand and they know exactly what they are doing, which means they need another flight path to the west.      

  • 22blades February 21, 2017 (5:31 pm)


    I understand your skepticism of the Port, but I will say that this “flyover” was probably legit. While aircraft usually takeoff into the wind, it is difficult to stop the stream of inbound aircraft so they can switch runways due to a shift in the direction of the wind or a thunderstorm off the end of a runway. Most, if not all, airports that I go to have gone to great lengths to adhere to a noise abatement program. Pilots not adhering to Noise Abatement Procedures can even have legal action made against them. The only other safe option here was to strand a few hundred passengers for hours. Different aircraft have different requirements such as this lone oceanic long haul plane. We take aviation technology for granted but we’re still at the mercy of nature. It is not an uncommon maneuver which I have done many times myself.

    22(I don’t fly for Delta)Blades

  • ScienceC February 21, 2017 (6:18 pm)


    As an Air Traffic Controller who has worked multiple propeller driven aircraft departing and making sharp turns to the west, both in a north flow and south flow configuration, I can assure you that there is no noise abatement rules in place for these types of aircraft on departure. For jets yes, for props no. And this isn’t something new. It’s been going on FOR YEARS, if not DECADES for prop driven aircraft. I’m guessing everyone is starting to notice now because the airport is significantly busier in the last 3 years than it had been at any other time in its history.

    I can also assure you after having spent countless hours behind a radar scope at the TRACON, and being responsible for directing many of the turns you see airplanes making in the area, most specifically at the airport you are complaining about…The port is not lying to you on this. And it happens more than you think.

    Opposite direction operations: those operations that happen when the airport is landing or departing in a certain configuration, and a random aircraft, for VERY legitimate reasons requests to go against the flow of the configuration, ie…swimming upstream, we do every thing we can to accommodate those requests without impacting passenger safety, and expeditious traffic flow in and out of the airport simultaneously. Opposite direction operations are no joke which require much coordination between the pilot, tower controllers, and radar controllers, often 30-60 minutes in advance of planned departure…to make it happen safely. I can assure you no one is deliberately trying to ruin your day, or property value. I can also assure you…..Jets WILL NOT be next. The TRACON does an excellent job of adhering to legal directives in place, except where special circumstances exist like 22Blades indicated.

    The airport is a valuable commodity to the economic prosperity of Seattle. No farms, no food. 

    IMHO….there is only one type of homeowner that gets to have a legitimate gripe about aircraft noise…..especially considering how much more quiet and efficient commercial aircraft have become in the last 20 years, and they are those homeowners that bought their home before the airport was built. Otherwise, this is like complaining about buying a house next to the railroad tracks and expecting no trains to use it.

    • JC February 22, 2017 (10:13 am)

      Excellent response!!!!!  Thank you!  I live under the flight path of Sea-Tac and I don’t complain because I chose to live there.  Getting tired of these people who complain when they live near the airport.  What did they expect when they moved close to one??   The jets has definitely gotten quieter over the years as newer engines are quieter and more efficient.   And yes, there are some days it’s noisier than other days and it has a lot to do with the dense of the air too. 

  • WestCake February 21, 2017 (6:20 pm)

    The safety of the passengers and the responsibility of the pilots with their lives outweighs any loud noise suffered by people on the ground in court usually. 

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