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Jet Traffic Carries Noise Violations at Santa Monica Airport to New Heights


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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

November 27, 2017 -- The number of aircraft flying in and out of Santa Monica Airport is declining. And jet traffic -- the source of powerful neighborhood fury -- is down.

But SMO will nonetheless finish the year with a record-breaking increase in noise violations by aircraft, nearly all of them charter jets.

As of October, SMO recorded 174 instances this year in which aircraft exceeded the City’s legal noise limit.

It is the largest number of noise violations since 2007, when 214 such incidents were posted, according to a new report by SMO analysts.

Officials are quick to note the violations represent only a sliver of all aeronautic operations, which last year totaled 66,829, down from previous years.

Charter jets represent about 20 percent of total flight activity, or around 45 trips a day to or from Santa Monica’s municipal airport.

Propeller-driven aircraft account for about two-thirds of all operations. Helicopter flights represent about four percent.

Jets are almost always the noise outlaws, though, which is shown in October’s monthly noise report.

Of 26 noise violations last month, all but two (which were propeller aircraft) were jets. In this case, most of the jet services received warnings from SMO, an action reserved mostly for first-time offenders.

Ten violators were fined $2,000 each.

The report is before the City Airport Commission at its meeting tonight.

To accommodate construction related to the new City Services building adjacent to City Hall, the commission is temporarily holding meetings at Santa Monica Public Library’s Martin Luther King Jr. Auditorium, 601 Santa Monica Boulevard. The session starts at 7 p.m.

SMO is set to close on the last day of 2028, considered by many nearby residents to be a source of hazardous jet pollution, noise and potential accidents ("City, FAA Agree to Close Santa Monica Airport in 2028," January 28, 2017).

The City is currently engaged in reducing the length of the sole runway, hoping to make it too short for most larger jet traffic until final closure ("Shortening of Santa Monica Airport Runway to Start Monday," October 19, 2017).

The City’s airport ordinance sets a maximum noise level of 95.0 decibels. It monitors flights from locations 1,500 feet from each end of the runway. Noise is at its loudest during flyovers, or the point the aircraft is directly overhead, the report noted.

About half of the noise violations recorded in October were one step beyond the maximum level, or between 95.1 to 95.9 decibels. Residents have described such flights overhead as “teeth rattling.”

Another description likens that level of noise to the roar of a too-close-for-comfort motorcycle (the National Institutes for Health).

A jet and a propeller aircraft hit the noise level of 95.1 to 95.9, which by some accounts is like hearing a shouted conversation in a subway or almost like a boombox or ATV blast to the ear.

None reached 100.0 to 104.9 decibels, or 105.0 and beyond, territory described as up-close exposure to a jackhammer and extremely dangerous to endure for long periods of time.


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