SANTA MONICA—A controversial test, which lasted 180-days in Santa Monica, came to an end on Tuesday, June 8, 2010. The U.S. government’s test began on December 10, 2009, and involved departing propeller planes from the Santa Monica Municipal Airport to turn right instead of going straight to the LAX region of the city. Turning right upon departure of the SMMA placed planes in the proximity of the Sunset Park and Ocean Park communities, leaving many residents to complain often about the sounds of planes flying over their homes, golf courses and parks day and night. This created one of the most unpopular flight paths to date for the smaller airport in the city, which has seen a great increase in airline traffic over the past few years.
FAA officials stated in their initial report that they and airport officials will analyze the complaints of noise along with any potential benefits the alternative flight path may bring in the future. Officials have not decided yet if these two neighborhoods will be in the direct path of future flight plans, but remain open to the idea, which is not a popular plan with residents. An Ocean Park resident tells Canyon News, “This is absolutely not a good idea. My neighborhood is against it. I haven’t heard of one neighbor who believes this is a good idea. There must be some other alternative than to create this noise pollution and safety hazards in our communities.”
Airport officials along with FAA investigators have maintained the benefits of this new flight plan when dealing with cloudy or foggy weather in the region. Safety is the biggest issue officials state; however, residents of these two communities feel a crash over someone’s home is inevitable if this flight path is implemented permanently, not to mention the loud sounds which have disrupted sleep patterns for many in the region.
Ian Gregor, an FAA spokesman said in a statement, “If we move toward making the procedure permanent, we will do a thorough environmental analysis that will include public involvement.” Gregor assures the public this process will not be completed quickly, that it may take up to a year to be fully completed. The difference between opinions over the tests seem to be great. Residents state the types of plans and amount of flights over their neighborhood are different than the eight propeller plans a day the FAA and SMMA state have occurred.
Neighborhood associations are also getting involved, not just individual citizen complaints. Reports from the FAA claim, the tests show a significant reduction of delays for private and commercial aircraft in the region. The delays at both LAX and Santa Monica Municipal Airport have lessened due to the elimination for the need of air traffic controllers to coordinate takeoffs from Santa Monica and nearby LAX to avoid collisions.
FAA officials plan to release a final report in August.