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City Hires Consultants for Airport Studies and Website Enhancement  

By Jonathan Friedman
Lookout Staff

A June 17, 2010 -- While the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) analyzes community noise complaints and delay data from its 180-day flight pattern test to determine if the new route for small airplanes taking off from Santa Monica Airport (SMO) should be made permanent, the City has hired two consultants to help with its own analysis.

When asked what effect the City’s study would have on the FAA’s analysis, FAA spokesperson Ian Gregor said, “None whatsoever. But they’re free to do as they see fit.”

The City recently hired the consultants in response to concerns from the public and recommendations made last month by the Airport Commission, according to a report issued to the City Council on Tuesday by SMO Director Robert Trimborn. Ocean Park and Sunset Park residents have complained about increased noise since the test began in December and challenged the FAA’s statement that only about 16 aircraft per day took the test route. (See article of May 14, 2010 -- Airport Battle Gets Heated.)

ASRCE Research and Technology Solutions will analyze the FAA’s proposed flight route change. The firm will also “advise the City regarding possible alternative courses to remedy the situation.” Landrum and Brown Consulting will quantify and model the noise impact from the aircraft that participated in the test.

Also, the Lochard Corp. will install near-real time flight track information on SMO’s website. The web site will use WebTrak, a service that allows people to see actual flight tracks “in a form that is easily comprehendible.” Complaints can be electronically filed through the system.

The FAA test took place through June 8. Its purpose was to determine whether a new flight route could decrease delays at Lax and SMO. With the test, single-engine, piston-powered planes were ordered to turn to a heading 40 degrees to the right shortly after take-off. This took the aircraft over Sunset Park and Ocean Park residences toward the pier. Since April, SMO has received a significant increase in noise complaints. An estimated 1,000 were made in April and even more were received by the airport in May.

Gregor said the FAA is currently analyzing all complaints forwarded to the federal agency from SMO in a “time-consuming process” involving looking at each one, cross referencing the complaint with radar data and then plotting the location to “develop a conclusion.” He said preliminary analysis of the complaints from December through March show a majority of them were made about aircraft not participating in the test.

Also, the FAA is comparing delay data from during the test to delay numbers from the period before the test began. Gregor said a final report is expected to be made in August.

“At that time, we will decide whether to move toward making the (new route) permanent,” Gregor said. “If we move toward making the procedure permanent, we will do a thorough environmental analysis that will include public involvement. This process will take at least a year to complete.”


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