Santa Monica Lookout Opinion
City Mum on Plans to Reroute LAX Jet Traffic Over Santa Monica
By Eve Lopez
Unbeknownst to the entire Santa Monica Airport Commission, FAA plans have been actively underway since before May of 2022 to re-route a flight path for LAX jet traffic over 2,723 Santa Monica households. This will affect 719 more households than presently affected.
Currently, LAX jets fly 89 percent of the route over water and 11 percent over land at an altitude of 7,000 to 9,000 feet when flying to the JUUSE (pronounced “juice”) waypoint. An aviation waypoint is an intersection similar to a street intersection controlled by a stop light.
Relocating the JUUSE waypoint as proposed will result in LAX jets flying 6 percent of the route over water and 94 percent over land. One-hundred percent of the land affected by relocating this “intersection” is in Santa Monica.
Santa Monica Airport protects the airspace for all of Santa Monica up to 2,600 feet. While the proposed relocation does not (yet) pierce into Santa Monica’s protected airspace, it serves as a preview of what the future holds for Santa Monica and a reminder that this could -- and still can -- be avoided.
While not yet final, the proposed change is beyond the preliminary stage of evaluation. The FAA has determined it to be feasible and along the process allowed for the input of all affected stakeholders, including the City of Santa Monica.
Yet Santa Monica stakeholders have provided no input into the process. At this late stage, it may be difficult for the City to have any meaningful say.
How did the City get here? The answer is simple. The City has chosen to exclude the stakeholder group from its Airport Commission appointments that have the technical knowledge to guide timely participation in such issues. That excluded stakeholder group is active licensed airplane pilots and users of the Santa Monica Airport.
The current composition of Santa Monica’s Airport Commission consists of four commissioners who have absolutely no aviation knowledge and one other who has not been an active pilot for the past 35 years.
An active airplane pilot on the commission would have had the affiliations with the regulatory agencies and knowledge of modern avionics and arrival procedures to have been able to participate in the discussion of the issue from its onset, not only providing the City and us residents with representation, but also the FAA with the relevant public interest guardrails.
Of all the City Commissions and Boards, arguably the Airport Commission requires the most technical expertise with the most substantive potential impact on us residents.
This exclusion is explicable only within the context of a desire to eliminate any opposition to the closure of the airport. The reality is that technically qualified Airport Commission membership has zero impact on any potential closure of the airport.
More important, it would have significant beneficial impact on resident quality of life for as long as the airport remains open, as this LAX rerouting issue clearly demonstrates.
Misplaced political considerations have, as usual, done a disservice to the City’s 90,000 residents. Because of this lapse, the City Council by way of its unqualified appointments to the Airport Commission have needlessly placed 719 additional Santa Monica households at risk of commercial jumbo noise. And that is just the start.
But this LAX re-routing issue brings up a second point. Santa Monica Airport creates airspace restrictions for all aircraft -- including LAX traffic -- which protect the residents of Santa Monica from even more noise if the airspace were unrestricted.
The Los Angeles airspace is one of the busiest in the country. Absent Santa Monica airport, the airspace from the ground up to 5000 feet above Santa Monica will be unrestricted. There will be no minimum altitude required nor any flight curfews.
Absent the airport, Santa Monica loses its influence not only to protect its residents from changes to LAX jet routes, but also from lower-flying air traffic in transition, at all times of the day, every day, seven days a week.
By filling the Airport Commission with commissioners who lack any modern aviation knowledge, our voice has become irrelevant to LAX noise operations.
Assuredly, if the airspace above Santa Monica loses its protections should the airport close, LAX jets will undoubtedly take advantage of the open airspace and implement operational changes to save millions of dollars in fuel and flight time.
There is no substitute for doing the right thing. Santa Monica residents lose whenever that does not happen. We have been losing too much lately.
There is an open vacancy on the Airport Commission. Write. Call. Speak. Insist City Council do the right thing and appoint an active pilot, user of Santa Monica Airport and someone with modern technical knowledge to the Airport Commission.
Eve Lopez is an attorney and pilot who lives in Santa Monica, where she is a tenant at the airport.
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