May 8, 2021 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Flight Test Ends, Uncertainty Continues: Controversial Flight Path Test Concluded, Decision from FAA Yet to Come

The controversial 180-day flight-pattern test, that incited residents of affected neighborhoods to bombard Santa Monica Airport with thousands of noise complaints, ended June 8.

The Federal Aviation Administration experiment began December 10, 2009, directing small propeller planes alter their previous flight paths and fly over densely residential areas. The route was an attempt to comply with the required three-mile separation between Santa Monica Airport (SMO) and Los Angeles International Airport flight paths, which were determined to be short by 0.1 mile.

The path reduced delays from planes idling at both airports while waiting for clear airspace, according to FAA reports, therefore reducing the chance of a collision. Less idling also means less jet pollution emissions near residences. The agency reports operating costs from such delays have reached almost $1 million since June 2008.

Before making the path permanent the agency will conduct a “thorough environmental analysis,” said Ian Gregor, a FAA representative. The process will take at least a year, which will include public involvement.

The FAA will analyze delay data and noise complaints to see if they actually pertain to planes using the test procedure, according to agency representatives. Radar reports will be compared to verify if a test aircraft matches the noise complaint’s address. A final report will be released in August.

The test had certain planes which previously flew over the Penmark Golf course turning northwest over residential homes and heading towards the Santa Monica Pier. This resulted in Sunset Park and Ocean Park residents, including two housing associations, bombarding the airport with thousands of noise complaints. The airport received at least 3,500 in May alone, according to official tallies.

Airport Director Robert Trimborn said the eight-person department hired two interns to deal with the overwhelming public response. Santa Monica has until the end of this month to submit all concerns.

While the FAA claims the test rerouted only eight to 10 small planes a day, residents challenged that number with complaints of exponentially more that included jet planes (See Flight Path Draws More Flak, pg. 1 Santa Monica Mirror May 13 – 19, 2010, Volume XI, Issue 49).

Trimborn explained that many planes turn northwest through the Santa Monica aircraft corridor for multiple reasons, such as overcast weather or slower planes accomodating larger jets. He said the city of Santa Monica is also a major corridor for air traffic to and from LAX in the general vicinity.

“If you live in Southern California airplanes are going to be flying over your home,” Trimborn said.

This is a reality for many residents in Venice who deal with up to 120 planes overhead from the airport daily. Noise complaints have historically been an issue with Southern California airports. Residents living near LAX, Burbank and Long Beach airports have received soundproof windows paid for by the entities as a way to appease noise issues.

At her home in the Sunset Park neighborhood in early May, Joanne Segal lamented the idea of locking noise out of the home she shares with her husband and three children.

“My mind can’t go there,” Segal said. “The disruption of the birds in the air and the sound of the ocean – it’s like being in a jail in a way.”

She has fought vocally in the community as one of the many to urge the FAA to end the test and find another solution. She said the point of living in Santa Monica is to enjoy the city, including the sounds of her peaceful neighborhood.

This week Segal reiterated the statement made by FAA spokesman Ian Gregor in the Los Angeles Times for “re-education efforts” to remind pilots to avoid neighborhoods and take the “recommended departure route over the golf course” when appropriate, instead of flying over neighborhoods.

With the flight change at-least temporarily over, the question is whether Santa Monica residents will adjust to a life where planes fly overhead and windows remain shut if the path-change is instated in August.

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