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FAA Says Plan for Santa Monica Airport Flight Paths Won’t Revive Rejected Route

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Hector Gonzalez
Staff Writer

June 16, 2015 -- A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) plan to revamp flight paths to and from Santa Monica Airport does not include a departure heading rejected by residents when it was tested by the FAA, an official for the agency said Monday.

Tested between 2009 and 2010, the 250-degree heading put aircraft leaving the airport on a path directly over Ocean Park, rather than over the ocean, residents and City officials complained at the time.

FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said the agency is not considering reviving the controversial route.

“The FAA is not proposing a 250-degree turn right off the runway end,” Gregor said in an e-mail to The Lookout. “The FAA is proposing a departure procedure that would have aircraft fly the runway heading (210 degrees) until they are near the shoreline, and then make a 260-degree turn.

“The proposed procedure follows existing flight tracks,” he said.

Gregor's statement counters the results of an analysis of the FAA’s complicated Southern California Metroplex Project -- released last week – by leaders of Community Against Santa Monica Airport Traffic (CASMAT).

The group's analysis shows that the plan’s proposed departure procedure for the airport “appears to route aircraft directly over the same areas of the City that the infamous 250-degree heading test once did.

“So we can clearly see that the public is likely to have an issue with this new path,” CASMAT said in an article, “Return of the 250 Heading?”, posted on its website.

CASMAT said the FAA’s map of proposed flight paths for the airport “is very broad and so the exact path is not clear.”

After residents protested and City officials complained to the FAA on their behalf, the federal agency deferred action on the route, saying it would “address the issue later as part of the SoCal Metroplex Project,” said Susan Cline, Santa Monica’s interim director of public works, in a report to local leaders last week.

Santa Monica Airport officials were briefed last week on the SoCal Metroplex Project, a complex plan to improve coordination among the Los Angeles Basin’s 22 airports primarily by readjusting hundreds of flight paths across the region.

One proposal would require aircraft departing from Santa Monica to “fly straight off the runway heading to the west and begin their turns at the shoreline,” said Martin Pastucha, assistant city manager and director of airports, in a summary to the City Council.

FAA officials prefer the route because it “is the most effective means to reduce idling and fuel consumption” as aircraft wait for control towers at LAX and Santa Monica to coordinate arrivals and departures, Pastucha said.

But the exact route of the departure path was “not clearly ascertained” at last Wednesday’s briefing, Pastucha added.

“However, staff believes that the turn will occur between Lincoln Boulevard and the shoreline,” he said.

“City staff has requested a meeting with the FAA to get a more detailed description and clarification” of the proposed flight path, Pastucha said.

Gregor said FAA officials will have Google Earth maps “showing the location of current flight tracks and proposed procedures” when the agency holds a much-anticipated public workshop in Santa Monica Wednesday

While Santa Monica supports “the goal of saving fuel and reducing idling time while aircraft await clearance,” City officials have repeatedly voiced opposition to flight paths that take aircraft directly over homes and environmentally sensitive areas, Pastucha said.

“The City will continue to reiterate Santa Monica’s opposition to any modifications that would change headings on takeoff from the current heading, by which aircraft fly directly to the coast, rather than over Santa Monica's hills and residences,” he said in his report.

City officials and CASMAT were encouraging residents to attend the hearing Wednesday, June 17, at the Santa Monica Library multipurpose room, 601 Santa Monica Boulevard, from 4 to 7 p.m.

Federal aviation officials are trying to solve congestion, “airport activity in close proximity” and other “limiting factors” that stymie airport efficiency in regions with higher concentrations of airports, according to an FAA website devoted specifically to the project. (“Library Meeting Will Discuss Possible FAA Changes for Santa Monica Airport,” June 8, 2015).

The draft environmental assessment report for the FAA’s SoCal Metroplex Project can be viewed at:

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