This December, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will begin a 6-month test of a proposed change to piston-powered instrument flight rules departure procedures at Santa Monica Airport (SMA). Small piston-propelled aircraft will climb to 400 ft and turn 40 degrees, a relatively quick turn compared to previously waiting to reach the shore. This turn is estimated to take place roughly over Penmar Golf Course, taking the 12 – 20 of these aircrafts daily in the direction of Santa Monica Pier.
“This is now going to affect more people,” said City Manager Lamont Ewell at his budget meeting with the residents of Sunset Park.
Residents in the Sunset Park Neighborhood have two concerns with path change; noise impact and safety. Cathy Larson, chair of the airport committee for the Friends of Sunset Park neighborhood association, said she had hoped to air these concerns to the FAA directly, when they were scheduled to speak before the airport commission.
That meeting was scheduled on a Monday. The Friday prior, Robert Trimborn, director of SMA, notified him that the FAA had decided to forgo the public process.
“From a neighborhood standpoint, we think they wussed out, that they don’t have any respect for the commission or the city of Santa Monica,” said Larson. “They make no effort to make a positive relationship with the community.”
Trimborn didn’t think the public would let this fly by, so he prepared a staff report outlining the program and held a session discussing it at the Nov. 23 Airport Commission meeting.
“The public needs to know,” Trimborn said.
Larson said it feels like the FAA has no oversight from the city. Ewell said as much at the neighborhood budget meeting.
“They’re putting the burden on the cities, but have no interest in standing before those communities,” Ewell said.
Ewell went on to tell residents that when they start to hear planes, they should contact Trimborn’s office where the city will compile those complaints and forward them directly to the FAA.
Altering piston planes’ paths is an attempt to comply with FAA standards regulating operating procedures of airports within close proximity of one another – in this case, LAX and SMA.
For years, it was thought that the two airports were departing their airplanes the required three miles of separation. However a recent analysis was conducted by the FAA that measured the precise distance between the extended centerlines of the north runways at LAX and SMA’s runway that determined the actual aircraft separation at the shoreline is 2.9 miles – 0.1 mile short of the required minimum three miles of separation.
Compounded with an additional FAA change on aircraft separation criteria used for evaluating obstructions and terrain, the minimum vector altitudes has had a negative impact on air carrier departures from LAX north runway complex when slower moving piston-powered aircraft are departing SMA.
Presently all departures from the north complex are held on the ground for 6 minutes to 12 minutes, until the slower moving piston-powered IFR aircraft departing SMA achieves its minimum vectoring altitude and can be vectored (or directed) away from the LAX departure flight.
The change in flight paths is an attempt to remedy this problem. Existing departure clearances, gate hold procedures, flight tracks over the ground and coordination between FAA SoCal Terminal Radar Control, LAX and SMA will not change for jet and high performance turboprop aircraft operations.
For questions or to voice complaints, contact the SMA staff at 310.458.8591.