May 24, 2022 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

SMO Study Finds Noise Impact Minor:

The contentious Santa Monica Airport (SMO) six-month flight path test that sent planes over Santa Monica homes did not greatly impact noise, according to a recent city-funded study.

The noise analysis studied the FAA administered test for the temporary 250-degree right turn heading for single-propeller planes finding no major overall impact on noise levels. The FAA recorded only eight planes per day rerouted by the path, none of which caused an overall noise increase.

The city-funded study performed by Mestre Greve Associates mimicked the noise data results expected from the agency, a standard procedure to understand the FAA findings said SMO Director Robert Trimborn. According to how the FAA would handle the noise analysis he said, “there wasn’t enough noise generated to affect the noise data.”

Noise levels are examined on a collective scale taking into consideration factors such as duration.

Trimborn the study is just preliminary research on Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) planes, otherwise know as single-propeller, while there is much more activity the Santa Monica airport commission will examine. He said planes that follow Visual Flight Rules (VFR), which allows for much more flexibility in departure routes, will also be scrutinized in order to find an alternative for the flight path test.

In order to study the impact of VFR planes, multiple airport staff would have to listen to communication between the radio tower and planes for about 150 arrivals and departures a day over the six-month period. Trimborn called the overall study an “amazingly tedious process,” if one does the math.

So far the airport commission has not scheduled any further research studies.

A study analyzing research from the FAA will not be released for “ at least several weeks,” regardless of plans to have a draft report out by now, said FAA spokesman Ian Gregor. The agency is performing an extremely in depth review of the path, he said including considering tens of thousands of noise complaints from residents.

The group is examining whether the altered path actually reduced delays at Los Angeles International Airport as hoped. If successful the right turn heading could save LAX tens of millions of dollars.

Despite resident complaints of a much higher stream of planes overhead, Gregor stands by the data stating that only 8 to 10 aircrafts were assigned to the flight test per day.

“VFR have always been free to fly wherever they want in airspace, and so they can always take that path and some have,” Gregor said.

Lisa Hughes, an Ocean Park resident said in her experience many more planes are noticeable and that all types of traffic need to get recognized. In a phone interview, Hughes paused while two planes passed over her house. She and other residents are calling for a full environmental impacts report.

“For them the base the test on eight planes a day it is an untruth and it was over 20 an hour on sunny days,” Hughes said. “Welcome any assistance in getting the city involved in fighting the FAA with any endeavor that they are doing to solve this problem.”

Hughes helped form the group Neighbors for Safe and Healthy Community in the wake of a recent crash killed 60-year-old pilot Robert Ralsey Davenport, who landed in Penmar Golf Course that borders Santa Monica. The group started the website safesantamonica.com to let more community members know about impacts of the airport, as well as options.

Hughes said she has “tremendous empathy for anyone living in the flight path, calling for a transparent process.

The airport has applied for webtrack possibilities online, so anyone can see the route taken and type of plane for most flights to and from SMO. Trimborn said a six-minute delay will occur to eliminate confidential information when needed. These web-capabilities are currently possible for LAX flights.

The webtrack will also offer a comprehensive way to voice complaints about noise for the specific flight.

To Santa Monica residents eight flights per day seems like a drop in the hat to the up to 115,000 operations a year. Even with the current numbers, fewer than half as many planes are flying out of Santa Monica airport as there were 10 years ago. About 230,000 planes departed and landed in 1999.

The real question of noise impact may lie in how noise impacts are measured.

Residents hear the louder single event noise of each plane flying over their homes. More people are exposed to this single event noise during the 250-degree heading, according to the study.

The FAA does not propose guidelines for such single event noise. The National Environmental Policy Act regulates on a federal level the cumulative affect of the daily noise of planes, disregarding the single events. NEPA protection does take in affect single event noise in situations such as at night or state parks.

This means that despite individual plane noise reaching well over the 65 cumulative noise exposure level during individual flights, these anomalies are not considered to hold as much weight.

FAA does not have any guidelines or standards relative to single event noise, as the study explains. The FAA does recognize the use of such factors as helpful in explaining the effects of aircraft noise, but does not use them for the purposes of determining the significance of noise on residential communities.

Yet when the agency determines a standard, as Trimborn put it, ‘That’s it.”

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