SMO Update: A Letter from the City – LAX Noise Increases

Planes parked at the side of the SMO runway prior to the runway shortening.
A letter from the City of Santa Monica
Dear Community Member:

I hope your week is going well and that it is winding down nicely. I anticipate being able to send you the March flight operations report shortly. In the meantime, I would like to touch on an issue that many of you are familiar with, and possibly directly impacted by – the Southern California Metroplex. City Manager Rick Cole sent this letter to the FAA requesting enforcement of their published minimum flight altitudes.

Here is a quick summary of Metroplex. It is a project that replaced dozens of existing ground-based air traffic procedures with satellite-based procedures. It is an air transportation system modernization project that the FAA states improves safety and efficiency using satellite-based procedures that allow for more optimized routing with fixed routes, altitudes, and speeds.

The changes in procedures affecting LAX arrivals over Santa Monica went into effect in April 2017. Prior to the implementation, the City of Santa Monica along with other communities engaged the FAA requesting that procedural changes in air traffic not adversely impact residential communities. While the FAA’s public information on the noise impacts of Metroplex states, “some people will experience slight noise decreases, some will see no changes, and some will experience small noise increases,” we are hearing differently. In recent months, we have heard from an increasing number of residents that the noise increases they experience from LAX air traffic are far from “small”.

As a result of complaints from residents regarding increased noise from LAX air traffic, Santa Monica Airport staff conducted a flight track analysis to determine what percentage of flights, if any, deviated from FAA’s published minimum altitudes. The data range sampled was between March 1, 2018 and March 5, 2018. What we see is that a majority of the aircraft flew above the 7,000 feet minimum altitude. However, we found that in the timeframe reviewed, the data reveals that 28% of aircraft traffic flew below the 7,000 feet minimum, thus not adhering to the Metroplex minimum altitudes. No aircraft flew below 6,000 during the same time.

We do not know how much of a difference in noise a deviation of up to 1,000 feet in altitude makes for residents under the path when the minimum altitude is 7,000 feet. We do know that some residents have found the increase significant. Given the deviations from the published minimum altitudes over Santa Monica, the City sent the aforementioned letter to the FAA requesting that they enforce the minimum altitude standards unless the deviation is needed for safety. The letter further requests that if the FAA is considering any changes to the flight paths, that they include the City in conversations so that other neighborhoods are not made worse off.

We hope to receive a favorable response. I will provide updates as they become available. Please let me know if you have any feedback or questions.

Warmly,
Suja

For more information regarding this project and for regular updates regarding the runway shortening project, including more detailed construction information once it is available, please visit www.smgov.net/airport.