|Read what is happening in Santa Monica, Ca. Sound familiar?
Wire: New York Times (NYT) Date: Oct 29 2014 3:28:26
The Noise Near This Airport's Runway Is Getting Louder
By CHRISTINE NEGRONI
Oct. 29 (New York Times) -- SANTA MONICA, Calif. --
Residential neighborhoods encircle the municipal airport here on
three sides. And while it has no airline service, about 260
aircraft operate every day from Santa Monica Municipal Airport's
5,000-foot runway on a plateau above the surrounding terrain.
From above, the airfield looks "like an aircraft carrier in
a sea of homes," says Alan Levenson, who lives near the airport
and sometimes watches the activity from the roof of his garage.
Aircraft as small as single-engine planes and helicopters
and as large as twin-engine business jets fly in and out of the
227-acre airport. As its traffic has increased, it has brought to
a boil a simmering battle over whether the airport has outgrown
Next week, voters in this Los Angeles suburb of 92,000 will
go to the polls to determine who should control the airport's
future: elected leaders or residents. Debate over the airport
extends far beyond city limits, involving the federal government
and national aviation lobbying groups.
"The issue is, this used to be a small airport that didn't
have jets, and people managed to get along," said John
Fairweather, the leader of one of several groups that want either
a reduction in jet traffic or closure of the airport.
The initial dispute started in the 1960s, when neighbors
objected to the noise of the Learjet, one of the first private
American business jets and the product of the Santa Monica-based
Lear Inc. Over the decades, the City Council has imposed flight
curfews, landing fees and noise abatement measures.
Jet traffic continued to grow, however, peaking in 2007 at
18,500 jet flights. The growth was propelled by companies selling
fractional jet shares and by-the-hour jet travel cards. Jets were
13 to 14 percent of all flights until the economic crisis of
2008. While the total number of jet operations has not recovered,
jets are now a larger percentage of the total traffic. According
to a report prepared by the Santa Monica airport's Noise
Management Office, jets made up 15 percent of traffic in 2013.
These numbers infuriate neighbors like Mr. Levenson, who
says the airport serves outsiders and private, wealthy fliers
"while continuing to threaten the health and safety of the
neighbors it no longer employs or benefits."
A complicated trail of lawsuits and real estate transfer
agreements runs parallel to the history of the Santa Monica
Airport, which was acquired by the city in 1926. Douglas Aircraft
used it through World War II and built many of the nearby homes
for its workers. But for all the documents generated in the
dispute, none has definitively resolved the question that voters
will decide on Nov. 4: Who should have the power to make
decisions about its future -- its residents or the council they
In the face of the complaints, the city has been examining
the economic and environmental impacts of the airport.
"You've got a greater and greater density" in population,
said Martin Pastucha, Santa Monica's director of public works.
"The use of the airport at its inception is a different
environment than what it is currently, and you have to ask, 'Are
those two compatible anymore?' "
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, an airport
advocacy group, is one of two lobbying groups based in the
Washington area that are helping to finance a referendum
requiring city leaders to maintain the status quo at the airport
and get voter approval for any changes. Only this would protect
the airport from what the association's vice president for
airports, Bill Dunn, claims is the council's effort to seize the
land to the detriment of aviation.
"Would you consider closing the entrance or exit ramp from
your city to the highway? A general aviation airport is an access
point to the national aviation system," he said. "It's an entry
point to take you anyplace in the world."
Supporters of the airport point to Santa Monica's long
history of aviation.
"The airport has been there 70, 80-plus years," said Todd
Baumgartner, a senior partner at the aviation consulting firm FBO
Partners and a former executive for NetJets, a fractional jet
ownership company. "They didn't know that when they bought their
house? That in itself is frustrating."
The city's immediate concern is the vote, to establish how a
majority of the voters feel about the council members' ability to
resolve this lengthy dispute. "What the council is slowly seeking
is a determination" of whether it has the right to control the
airport's role in the city's future, Mr. Pastucha said.
The airport's space is so restricted, it is exempt from
runway protection requirements, a fact not lost on the airport's
Government statistics show there have been 10 accidents
related to aircraft operating from Santa Monica Municipal Airport
over the last 10 years, four of them fatal. In 2011, a student
pilot crashed a small plane into the side of an unoccupied house
a quarter-mile from the runway. A year later, another private
plane crashed short of the runway, killing the pilot. Neighbors
grew more concerned last fall when a Cessna Citation business jet
slammed into a hangar shortly after landing, killing all four
people on board.
"So far no one has ever been killed on the ground," Mr.
Levenson said, "but accidents do happen."
Safety and health issues related to aviation fuel emissions
and noise are some of the complaints the City Council must
consider as it weighs options, Mr. Pastucha said.
Regardless of what Santa Monica residents decide next week,
there is still the matter of the Federal Aviation Administration,
which contends that the city is obligated to operate the airport
for the use and benefit of the public, according to Ian Gregor,
public affairs manager for the agency. A city lawsuit challenging
the F.A.A. was dismissed as not timely, and city officials say
they have not given up.
"We're really a balancing act between trying to deal with
these interests," Mr. Pastucha said, "and trying to navigate the
conflict that exists between the two."
-0- Oct/29/2014 07:28 GMT