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Noisy Flight Schools Rile Airport Neighbors

Dear Editor,

At the April 25, 2011 Airport Commission meeting, as part of the Annual Noise Report, consultant Vince Mestre of Mestre Greve Associates reported that during 2010 there were 104,490 total aircraft operations (52,245 takeoffs and 52,245 landings) at Santa Monica Airport. Of those, 12,853 were “jet operations,” 66,216 were “itinerant operations,” and 45,472 were “local operations.” ("Airport Noise Report Seeks to Objectify SMO Record," April 26, 2011)

On weekdays, a majority of the local operations are Touch and Go’s. On the weekends, the majority are Taxi Backs. During a Touch and Go, an airplane lands, slows down, raises flaps, applies power and takes off without stopping. During a Taxi Back, an airplane lands, stops, proceeds to end of runway, and takes off again.

Both Touch and Go’s and Taxi Backs involve flying a six or seven minute loop pattern over residential neighborhoods. There can be as many as four aircraft flying these loop patterns at the same time, which means that planes are landing, taking off, and flying over people’s houses every two minutes.

Concerned residents of neighborhoods surrounding Santa Monica Airport (SMO) have been observing airport operations this spring. Three reports based on analyses of observations can be found at Friends of Sunset Park's SM Airport link. “Analysis of Departures From Santa Monica Airport 2011 tab”

By looking up registrations for each tail number, together with other data from various flight tracking web sites, residents have been able to determine the operators of each aircraft and thus divide the takeoffs into three major categories: (1) Jet Aircraft, (2) Flight Schools and Training Flights, and (3) Other Prop Aircraft.

For example, on April 22, 2011, a total of 58 takeoffs were recorded between 12 PM and 3 PM -- an average of one takeoff every 3 minutes. Of those, 60% were flight school training related. A single plane (N2092L operated by Skyward Aviation) accounted for 30% of all takeoffs during the period, performing 17 touch and go’s. In other words, one plane took off 17 times and landed 17 times within 3 hours.

Page 5 of the report on April 22 shows trends. During a combined observation time over several days of 13 hours, 248 takeoffs were observed. 58% were flight school related, 9% were jet aircraft, and the remaining flights involved prop and turbo prop planes not connected to flight schools.

At Airport Commission meetings, residents in Santa Monica, Venice, Culver City, and West Los Angeles have complained about the noise from prop planes constantly flying over their homes. Is there a solution to this problem? What if flight school owners had their students practice their touch and go’s elsewhere?

There are many outlying civil aviation airports that have farmland, river washes, or desert under their arrival and departure flight paths. Rather than practicing all touch and go’s at SMO, a student pilot could take off once from SMO, obtain valuable navigational training en route to an outlying airport, perform numerous touch and go’s (without flying over thousands of homes), return to SMO, and land once.

There could be increased costs involved for the student pilot. However, residents feel that those costs pale in comparison to the price that they have been paying over the years with the constant noise and pollution of the flight school planes over their homes.

Lloyd Saunders
Sunset Park

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