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New Flight Paths Prompt Complaints of “Unbearable Noise” in Skies Over Santa Monica
By Niki Cervantes
April 9, 2018 – After a year in effect, the federal government’s GPS-propelled overhaul of air traffic has resulted in 28 percent of aircraft flying too low over Santa Monica, causing noise that can be “unbearable,” City officials said.
The Southern California Metroplex -- this region’s portion of a national change in air traffic management -- was touted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as a way of improving safety and efficiency over the L.A. Basin’s busy skies, without “significant noise impacts.”
But like officials from L.A. to Newport Beach, the City of Santa Monica is letting the FAA know the shift in flight paths to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is producing far too much noise from the aircraft above.
In a letter to the FAA last week, Santa Monica City Manager Rick Cole said a City investigation into noise complaints found 28 percent of aircraft over Santa Monica were violating minimum standards for altitude.
The changes went into effect in April of 2017.
“We are receiving an increasing number of noise complaints attributed to the recently implemented Metroplex GPS procedures over the Santa Monica area,” the April 2 letter to FAA Acting Administrator Daniel K. Elwell said.
"Residents are reporting an unbearable amount of noise since the implementation of the new procedures,” he said.
In reaction to the complaints, the City conducted an analysis of flight data range between March 1, 2018 and March 5, 2018.
It revealed 28 percent of aircraft traffic flew below the FAA 7,000-foot minimum, thus not adhering to the Metroplex minimum altitudes.
No aircraft flew below 6,000 during the same time.
The letter asks for “strict enforcement of the FAA published minimum altitude standards,” particularly those impacting Santa Monica, “unless the deviation is needed for safety.”
Cole also wants to be assured the City is asked to join in any flight-path discussions which might affect it.
The letter also makes reference to Newport Beach and Culver City, both of which sued the FAA over the impact of “Metroplex” on the communities.
A tentative agreement was reached in January between Newport Beach and the FAA in which the feds study a different departure from John Wayne Airport that avoids as many residential areas as possible. Culver City is still in litigation.
Metroplex is part of the FAA’s modernization program, called NextGen -- a project meant to gradually replace radar-based flight monitoring with GPS and more sophisticated automation.
The FAA says such technology will allow controllers -- and eventually pilots -- to pinpoint the exact location of aircraft at all times, instead of waiting for radar signals to bounce back.
Under the FAA’s new procedures, airplanes are not to dip below minimum altitudes the multiple "waypoints" used for their descent to LAX.
Before Metroplex started, the City and other communities “engaged the FAA requesting that procedural changes in air traffic not adversely impact residential communities,” said Suja Lowenthal, senior advisor for Santa Monica Airport to Cole.
She said FAA’s public information on the noise impacts of Metroplex states that “some people will experience slight noise decreases, some will see no changes, and some will experience small noise increases.”
Santa Monica residents “are hearing differently,” Lowenthal said.
“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,’" she said.
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