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More than 100 Rally for Airport Safety

By Anita Varghese
Staff Writer

August 29 -- In what resembled more a sports pep rally than a political demonstration, more than 100 neighbors of Santa Monica Airport voiced their vehement opposition Tuesday evening to a runway safety plan crafted by federal officials.

The rally on the City Hall lawn -- which was aired on evening newscasts -- took place before Federal Aviation Administration officials presented a plan to the City Council that fails to shorten the length of the runway and would allow larger jets to take off and land close to homes.

Rallied by Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution (CRAAP) and Friends of Sunset Park, more than 75 residents of Santa Monica, Mar Vista and West Los Angeles then packed the council chambers to testify at a study session on airport safety.

“For more than 20 years, Santa Monica Airport has been operating – by the FAA’s own current standards – without any defined runoff safety areas for emergency situations,” said CRAAP director Martin Rubin.

“At Santa Monica Airport, in case of an unforeseen emergency, aircraft would run off either end of the runway, continue down an embankment, over a highly trafficked road and then into the homes as close as 175 feet from the runway,” Rubin told rally participants.

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 say the proposal falls far short of the 1,000 total feet of safety area mandated by FAA standards, but exempted at Santa Monica Airport, which was built in 1946, long before the regulations took effect and the airport became a prime destination for corporate jets.

FAA officials counter that the plan adequately accommodates the larger D-2 aircraft that are increasingly flying in and out of the general aviation airport. They contend that installing 130 feet of light concrete beds at each end of the runway to arrest speeding aircraft is an dequate safety measure that does not require shortening the runway.

Rubin, U.S. Congresswoman Jane Harman, Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl and airport area residents believe the FAA’s runway safety plan focuses too much on designs that would ensure jet operations -- which have skyrocketed in recent years -- continue and not enough on safety threats to surrounding neighborhoods.

“Residents of Santa Monica and Los Angeles who live near Santa Monica Airport are put at heightened risk because of substandard safety zones,” Rosendahl said in a written statement. “The FAA has decided its top priority is to maintain and enhance the airport’s operational capacity.”

Harman, who represents Los Angeles neighborhoods that surround Santa Monica Airport, called the FAA plan “insufficient.”

“After months of input from Santa Monica Airport officials and the surrounding community, I believe that the FAA’s recommendation to mitigate the risks of runway overshoots is insufficient to guarantee the safety of airport users or the neighboring residents,” Harman wrote to FAA administrator Marion Blakey.

“Continued access to the airport needs to be balanced with safety for all – pilots, passengers and neighbors alike,” she wrote.

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“For more than 20 years, Santa Monica Airport has been operating – by the FAA’s own current standards – without any defined runoff safety areas for emergency situations.” Martin Rubin

 

“Residents of Santa Monica and Los Angeles who live near Santa Monica Airport are put at heightened risk because of substandard safety zones.” Bill Rosendahl

 

“Continued access to the airport needs to be balanced with safety for all – pilots, passengers and neighbors alike.” Jane Harman

 

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