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Air Traffic Reaches Holding Pattern at Santa Monica Airport


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August 21, 2018 -- Departures from Santa Monica Airport have fallen into a holding pattern since the runway was shortened in December, according to City data released this week.

The total number of departures dropped last month to 2,293, from 3,044 in July 2017. The decline furthered a trend that saw departures during the first half of the year fall to 8,975 from 10,566,

Jet departures continued to plummet in July compared to the same period last year, although the 79 percent drop was slightly less than the 83 percent drop during the first half of the year.

There were 141 jet departures last month, down from 674 in July 2017 and 679 in July 2016, according to the monthly departure report.

The dramatic drop came after the City shortened the runway from nearly 5,000 feet to 3,500 feet in December to ward off charter jets ("Santa Monica Airport Starts Ten-Day Closure to Aircraft for Runway Shortening," December 15, 2017).

Helicopter departures declined to 120 last month, from 148 in July 2017 and 133 the previous year.

It was "only the second month reflecting a reduction since the January reopening of the runway," said Suja Lowenthal, senior advisor on airport matters to the City Manager.

It was a departure from the 18 percent increase in helicopters departing the airport during the first half of the year -- from 763 last year to 897 during the first six months of this year.

The numbers for June had risen even higher -- by 34 percent -- to 154, from 125 last year and 104 the previous year.

Piston and turboprop operations also were down last month.

Departures by piston planes -- by far the preferred aircraft at the century old airport -- dropped last month to 1,797, compared to 1,914 in July 2017 and 2,239 the previous year.

The drop comes after piston plane departures rose during the first half of the year -- from 9,299 last year to 10,483.

The steepest rise came in June, which saw piston plane departures spike from 1,482 last year to 1,926.

Piston plane departures saw an initial drop in late 2016 after several aviation tenants were forced out by the City ("Major Aviation-Related Tenant at Santa Monica Airport to Vacate," March 1, 2016 and "Aviation School Leaving Santa Monica Airport," April 28, 2016).

Departures by turboprop planes -- which use a turbine engine to drive an aircraft propeller -- dropped last month to 284, from 308 in July 2017.

Such departures had seen a slight increase during the first half of this year to 1,771, from 1,758 last year.

Shortening the runway was part of a consent decree with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to close the airport at the end of 2028 ("City, FAA Agree to Close Santa Monica Airport in 2028," January 28, 2017).


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