On May 5, the City of Santa Monica declared its intent to “aggressively pursue all avenues” for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct a full environmental impact (EIR) study of any permanent change to the flight path of small planes leaving Santa Monica Airport.
In December 2009, the FAA began a 6-month test of a possible change to piston-powered departure procedures at Santa Monica Airport (SMO). Previously these planes waited to reach the shore before making a 40-degree turn. During the test the exact location the turn has varied, but generally speaking these small planes have turned over Penmar Golf Course, then proceeded Northwest over residential houses in the direction of Santa Monica Pier.
In the last month, many of these residents who have suddenly seen and heard aircraft above their homes have held protests and complained to the City about the change, often accompanied by prominent representatives of both the cities of Santa Monica and Los Angeles.
As the test period comes to end in early June, the FAA will evaluate the operational data and public response to determine if the departure procedure will become permanent.
“The City insists on the inclusion of the City and its residents in reviewing any proposed change before final departure procedures are decided,” read the statement. Further, the City is initiating noise modeling of the test’s impact on the affected areas.
Because of the close proximity of SMO to Los Angeles International Airport the Instrument Flight Rules Departure test is being conducted (in accordance with the provisions of the National Environmental Protection Act) to see if the change will reduce departure delays at both airports.
The FAA moved forward with the test in December, but it did so by foregoing a formal public briefing as requested by the City.
“The City will not accept such disregard of the City and its residents in the future,” reads the notice.
The public is encouraged to contact Airport staff at (310) 458-8692 to discuss the proposed change in the departure flight track and to report noise complaints or other issues that might arise during the test period. Airport staff compiles and then forwards complaints/concerns /comments to the FAA to be included in the environmental review process.