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Airport Neighbors to Oppose FAA Proposal

By Jorge Casuso

August 21 -- Residents near Santa Monica Airport are revving up to protest a federal aviation proposal that would install safety measures on the local runway without reducing its length.

The proposal by Federal Aviation Administration officials -- which is scheduled to be taken up by the City Council on August 28 -- would install 155-foot safety areas at either end of the 5,000-foot runway.

But residents and City officials would like to see 1,000 feet of safety area, as mandated by FAA standards, but exempted at Santa Monica Airport, which was built long before the regulations took effect.

“We are tired of the FAA playing ‘runway roulette’ with our lives,” said a statement issued Monday by Friends of Sunset Park, a neighborhood group that represents residents near the airport. “We deserve to have standards-based safety measures immediately.

“Sub-standard safety measures, such as those the FAA is now proposing, are unacceptable -- particularly in light of the unique proximity of homes to
both ends of the runway,” the statement read.

Santa Monica Airport manager Robert Trimborn believes the federal proposal falls short of the safety standards City officials would like to see.

“This latest proposal seems a little bit extreme in many ways,” said Trimborn, who has been dealing with airport safety issue for five years. “It doesn’t really address the larger and faster aircraft.

“It seems like they’re more concerned with access and preserving access than with safety enhancement,” he said. “We want to implement appropriate safety areas for the airport.”

Trimborm believes that installing 155-foot safety areas that include 130 feet of light concrete beds to arrest speeding aircraft is not enough to accommodate the larger D-2 aircraft that are increasingly flying in and out of the general aviation airport established in 1946.

“The FAA requires 1,000 feet of safety area,” Trimborn said. “We don’t have it, and they say we don’t need it.” He added that the FAA believes the existing area “is grandfathered in.”

But the FAA contends that installing the compact engineered arresting system (EMAS) safety enhancements, which do nor require shortening the runway, is an adequate safety measure.

“No system can guarantee that there will never be an incident of some kind, however, and we believe that reducing runway length further to protect against an increasingly narrow set of conceivable circumstances is not warranted,” D. Kirk Shaffer, the FAA’s associate administrator for airports wrote in a letter to Trimborn dated July 31.

“We believe that with feasible grading, an EMAS bed can be installed at each end of the runway with a total reduction of runway length of less than 150 feet,” Shaffer wrote.

“For aircraft heavy enough to benefit from the EMAS, the EMAS itself provides a system that meets FAA performance specifications, and the impact of operations that would result from further shortening of the runway through declared distances is not necessary.”

Santa Monica and West Los Angeles residents who live near the airport plan to stage a rally on the front steps of City Hall before the August 28 council meeting. The rally organized by Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution (CRAAP) will take place between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m.

“CRAAP is recommending that the City Council reject the FAA runway safety proposal as inadequate,” read a statement issued by the organization.

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“We are tired of the FAA playing ‘runway roulette’ with our lives." Friends of Sunset Park

 

“It seems like they’re more concerned with access and preserving access than with safety enhancement.” Robert Trimborn

 

"We believe that reducing runway length further to protect against an increasingly narrow set of conceivable circumstances is not warranted.” D. Kirk Shaffer

 

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