Neighbors of Santa Monica Airport are angry about the latest Federal Aviation Administration’s runway safety proposal because they feel it will not adequately improve their safety.
In an August 20 email to the Mirror, Friends of Sunset Park Airport Committee member Brian Bland summed up the problem. “The airport is surrounded by homes, some less than 250 feet away, and has 18,000 jet operations a year. The runway has no overrun areas. Were it built today, larger aircraft would be barred without such overrun areas, but the FAA has waived its own rules regarding Santa Monica for the convenience of large jet-owners.”
In a July 31 letter from the FAA to the City’s Airport Manager, Robert Trimborn, FAA officials wrote, “It should be possible to obtain a significant safety enhancement at Santa Monica Airport through the use of a compact engineered material arresting system (EMAS) [of 130 feet] at each end of the runway.” The proposed EMAS would stop planes going as fast as 40 knots and would slow aircraft leaving the runway at speeds higher than 40 knots. According to the FAA, the proposed EMAS would only result in a reduction of less than 150 feet from the existing runway and therefore “is not expected to have a significant impact on” existing aircraft operations.
The letter also states, “Runway safety areas are designed for the protection of aircrews, not to guarantee that an aircraft will never get beyond the safety area. For protection of persons and property near the end of the runway, FAA design standards provide for a runway protection zone that limits land uses in the area. The runway protection zone is recommended but not required in general aviation airports like” Santa Monica Airport. Therefore, the FAA recommends “the City consider the feasibility of a property acquisition program to remove homes from the runway protection zones, even if the program removes only a few homes and does so over time. Such a program would be eligible for FAA grant funding.”
The FAA letter mentions the importance of the Airport. “Santa Monica Airport is an important aviation reliever airport for Los Angeles International Airport and a popular and valuable airport in its own right for business and recreational aviation in the Southern California Region.”
In an email to the Mirror, Martin Rubin, Director of Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution, reacted to the FAA recommendations. “This FAA report on runway safety areas is another example of their unwillingness to address critical concerns that the communities bordering Santa Monica Airport have. It is unconscionable for the FAA to gamble with human lives in order to preserve the airport’s present operational capacity. In addition, why does the FAA feel that it is acceptable to expose airport neighbors, some less than 300 feet from the ends of the runway, to prolonged dangerous jet fumes? This, too, is a safety issue. We ask that the FAA add jet emissions to their runway safety area equation.”
Rubin’s organization and others have organized a protest rally that will occur right before the August 28 City Council meeting where the FAA will be presenting their report.
The Board of the Friends of Sunset Park is also opposed to the FAA’s recommendations and has taken the position that the FAA should “stop the larger and faster aircraft (C and D) which currently endanger residents, and for which the runway was never designed, from using the Santa Monica Airport.” They also want “standards-based 1,000-foot Runway Safety Areas [constructed] at both ends of the runway. They can be implemented to protect residents right now. We are tired of the FAA playing ‘runway roulette’ with our lives.”