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City, Activists Wait to See if Shortened Santa Monica Airport Runway Reduces Jet Traffic

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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

January 17, 2018 -- Since re-opening on December 23 with a drastically shortened runway, the Santa Monica Airport has experienced a noticeable drop in air traffic, particularly among chartered jets.

Both sides in the ongoing war over the permanent closure of SMO agree on that point.

But whether the absence of air traffic will last is another question.

"At the start of 2018, air traffic going into and out of SMO is significantly less than it was prior to the runway being shortened to 3,500 feet,” said Martin Rubin, who heads Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution (CRAAP).

“Let's see what it is at the end of 2018,” he said.

Reducing the length of SMO’s only runway by 1,500 feet was part of the controversial consent decree the City Council reached with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on January 28.

The pact closes SMO at the end of 2028. But, among other features, the decree also cleared the path to reducing the runway to help reduce jet traffic in the interim.

Some SMO neighbors (who want the airport closed permanently much sooner) don’t buy the City’s argument that the new runway will dramatically slash jet traffic, and are watching the skies over SMO closely.

“Although the aircraft are starting their take offs 750 feet further to the west from Bundy Drive, I have definitely noticed the strong smell of jet emissions on several occasions at a distance 1/2 mile to the east of the airport,” Martin said.

“I believe that the City of Santa Monica as well as the FAA has virtually no concern about blowing toxic aircraft emissions over our Los Angeles homes. It's always been and continues to be all about the money,” he said.

In an email to community members earlier this month, a key City advisor on SMO matters said chartered jet traffic had plummeted about 88 percent since the debut of the shorter runway.

But Suja Lowenthal, senior advisor to the City Manager on SMO, acknowledged an FAA notice to pilots about a temporary lack of updated operations procedures for SMO might also have kept them from using the airport.

“Perhaps,” she said. “It’s hard to know with certainty why it might be this quiet.”

Detailed procedures will be published by the FAA on February 1, she said.


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