Nothing about urban planning is perfect. You might check into Mayor Villaraigosa’s current woes over “supergraphics” with citizens who are shouting him down at public meetings about the giant advertising banners hanging on the sides of buildings. Whatever sign code LA does have, it looks like monster signs and the revenue they generate are for now eating the enforcement of those codes for lunch. Santa Monica may have a similar disconnect, albeit with the federal government on the issue of private jets flying into the Santa Monica Airport (SMO). In March of 2008 the Council passed an ordinance that banned use of the Santa Monica Airport by C and D category aircraft. Recognizing that I’m not with FAA or in the aircraft industry, it’s my understanding that categories A and B include small, propeller aircraft and certain smaller business jets which have approach speeds of less than 121 knots. Categories C and D include, among other types, the remaining types of “business jets.” Our city said “No” to C and D aircraft at SMO. But rather than hear that or the voices of residents of Sunset Park which adjoins the airport, the FAA is alleging that the ordinance should not be implemented for a number of reasons. This has generated quite a bit of legal haggling and considerable paperwork involving the FAA’s dispute with the city. But while the FAA hasn’t said so, my intuition tells me that there’s possibly some relationship between people of influence who want to land their private jets and not put up with the crowds, and the street traffic out a LAX… and the fight between the city and the FAA. Where do I get my information? I live right under the take off flight path of those private jets as they head out over the Pacific. I know they’re private jets because they’re low enough to make a clear “visual”. Some days I swear I can hear the ice cubes rattling in the glasses onboard. On Sundays, the corporate work week is done. Right about noon, like clockwork, the small jets start passing overhead one right after another. I’m sure it’s nothing like what the residents who live closer to the airport put up with, but it’s enough evidence for me that there is a constituency of business jet owners that loves the convenience of our Santa Monica Airport. Easy to get to, fast to board, fast to take off. And again, you don’t have to mingle with the masses.The compelling need for captains of industry to have access to elite travel arrangements was properly highlighted last year… when the CEO’s of the U.S. auto industry were publicly spanked for flying in private jets to attend a Washington hearing on how their companies desperately needed the tax dollars of those crowds they avoid at the airport to save their corporations from collapse.I want to be reasonable, so let’s assume that of the 7,600 take offs and landings by C and D category aircraft last year at SMO there were at least a few related to the transit of life-saving vital organs for transplant. Maybe there were four or five instances where a private jet was donated for use so that a terminally ill child could visit Disneyland. So that would leave barely, say, 7,000 instances of some corporate exec wanting to avoid LAX. Again, I want to be fair.The FAA is arguing that SMO functions as a reliever airport for LAX jet operations and that the City Council’s ban would jam up regional air traffic. That sounds like corporate jets might then become vulnerable to the same types of landing delays that bedevil all the rest of us. Gosh, that would be unthinkable. Imagine the chaos involving dinner reservations and registration desks at fine hotels…But this is probably no time to be pouncing on the people in those small jets. They have serious work to do, putting the economy back together again. Work that we all want to see advance quickly. That means being able to get around with a minimum of delays and hassles. So let’s agree to some measures that are good for all sides.If it’s generally true that the passengers of C and D category aircraft are captains of industry, then, as they file their flight plans for in and out of SMO, let them also present their homework; some paperwork indicating what it was, exactly, that they were working on during their visit. If it’s clearly related to getting things running right again, creating jobs, restoring America’s financial health… fine. On the other hand, if there are a lot of golf scorecards and matchbooks from clubs and everything has water rings on it from where they set down their drinks… then maybe they’ll have to fly out of LAX next time. Where they can wait for the security check and then take their shoes off one at a time just like the rest of us.
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