A Pilot's Perspective.

By Barry Meek.

August 2012   

Let’s Close MORE Airports 

 Everything in this article pertains to an airport in California.  Los Angeles actually, and in particular to a small suburb called Santa Monica.  Everything could be attached to almost any city in the U.S. or in Canada, that has an airport.  Because where there’s an airport, there are people who are trying to shut it down. 

Their tactics are to attack it from any direction they can, whether legitimate or otherwise.  If their noise complaints get nowhere, out comes the pressure on politicians.  They generally misrepresent the facts, don’t have the facts, or make up their own lies.  The politicians are caught somewhere in the middle of doing what’s right, and doing what they need to do in order to stay in power.   

Santa Monica is a city where many wealthy and influential people make their homes.  It’s on the coast and surrounded by L.A.  Its small airport handles corporate jet traffic, small commuters and several flying schools.  Much of the commuter and jet traffic there relieves pressure on LAX.  The city grew up around the airport.  In some cases, construction of private homes and commercial buildings was allowed within just a couple of hundred feet of the runway.  So there is no buffer zone between them. 

It doesn’t take much imagination to predict that someday there would be a problem like the one they now have.  The city has a lease on the airport land which expires in 2015.  Many residents want to shut the entire facility down at that point.  At the very least, they’re fighting for a drastic reduction in operations.  The council recently turned down a proposal that would have seen Santa Monica taxpayers on the hook for paying flight schools to have their students fly to other neighboring airports to conduct their touch & go exercises!   

I did some checking on the internet, and have come up with some rather entertaining comments from local landowners who have a stake in this mess.  Most bought homes close to the airport, now want it moved out!  It sounds crazy, but to those homeowners, they see nothing wrong with their efforts.  Read on, and enjoy the irony of some writers in favor of keeping the airport and some who aren’t.    

(SMO refers to the Santa Monica Airport identifier code). 


Fine, buy up the land adjacent to SMO and turn it into commercial property. Who is going to come up with the billions of dollars to do that? The federal government? Are you aware of the land value and the costs of the houses and schools?    On the other hand Santa Monica could just bulldoze the airport pay the FAA fine of less than $100,000 and there we have the most cost effective viable solution.                                                   


On March 31, 2003, Mayor Daley (Meigs Field Airport in Chicago) ordered private crews to destroy the runway in the middle of the night, bulldozing large X-shaped gouges into the runway surface. The required notice was not given to the Federal Aviation Administration or the owners of airplanes tied down at the field.  Interest groups, led by the Friends of Meigs Field, attempted to use the courts to reopen it, but because the airport was owned by the City of Chicago and had paid back its federal aviation grants, the courts ruled that Chicago was allowed to close the field. The FAA fined the city $33,000 for closing an airport with a charted instrument approach, without giving the required 30-day notice.

Now that was $33,000 well spent.

When the lease agreement between Santa Monica and the FAA regarding SMO ends in the next few years let's use our money wisely and have someone in office as both bold and caring as Mayor Daley.                                             


 SMO is Killing us.

The enforcement of noise and pollution at SMO is a joke, about as funny as the cancer it is giving its neighbors. The pilots purposely fly around the noise sensors to avoid detection. I have reports from the airport staff that document a plane at 94Db, but the flight path was North of the noise sensors. Had the plane flown the runway heading, a different result would have been recorded. No fines, no reprimand, no laws to enforce. The airport operates like outlaws in the old West, the city commissioners say “trust us” since their 1980’s resolution to close the airport still remains unaddressed, while Santa Monica residents continue to have our tax dollars used to supplement the deficit of embarrassing “anti-green” black hole in the middle of our city.


I used to have jets, news, fire, police and media helicopters flying over my home of 37 years in the Hollywood Hills. It is no longer a problem...I MOVED TO A QUIET NEIGHBORHOOD NOT UNDER A FLIGHT PATH! Problem solved. Now I live near active railroad tracks... VERY NOISEY. I'm going to start a coalition in the area to shut down the damn noisy train track. Anyone have any suggestions on how to go about that? So far everyone tells me the tracks were there long before the house I just bought and if I don't like the noise I shouldn't have moved here. I should have the right live in peace in my home, right?     


No one needs this airport!

It serves no purpose other than easy availability for recreational pilots and jet landings, so as to not inconvenience the wealthy, who would never live near the airport.

No assessment of airport revenue takes into account secondary health assessments. The airport would generate more revenue for the city and its people if it was closed down.   


Charles: When you sell your home, be sure to put these comments on the California Residential Disclosure Report, Paragraph C, item 11: neighborhood noise problems or other nuisances. Or will it suddenly become a non-issue?                                      


Good point - here are some thoughts.
1. Noise - only one mile of pavement needed for the runway. How many miles of roads in the city? So how many jackhammers, heavy machinery, etc is needed for maintenance. What about the rest of the infrastructure? Trucks, deliveries to stores? Garbage pick up, etc, etc.
2. Emissions - compare the number of planes vs. cars, trucks, buses, home electrical usage (yes, 99% energy as we know it is not "green", including electrical supply since only a miniscule fracture comes from solar or wind - the rest is highly polluting or environmentally unfriendly)
3. Safety - hands down, more loss of life on the roads. Plus, pilots must meet rigorous health exams and are much safer than your average driver.


There are too many greedy Developers and Politicians involved in this battle - They have been salivating for years on how much money they could make by forcing the airport to shutdown and use the land for commercial or residential development. General Aviation in America has suffered enough already. I hope that someday the general population that depends so much on commercial aviation will realize that commercial aviation only gets to where it is because of years of general aviation pursuits. Keeping general aviation alive and well is in everyone's long term interest.                              


Like many I purchased my home before 1995. Why is this an issue?

In 1995 the 85 decibel limit for airplanes was overturned and jet owners hired extensive legal representation to raise this limit to 95 decibels. When this happened the number of jets increased exponentially.

SMO does not have an FAA office on the premise so there is no way to successfully penalize the jets or planes that fly in or out over the 95 decibel limit or too low of a trajectory over the neighborhoods.

But truly the noise and low flying jets/planes are nuisance and possibly health hazards. The indisputable issue is that these jets are spewing a large amount of ultrafine particles and lead fumes into homes and neighborhoods which harbor a large number of preschools, elementary, and middle schools.

There is a profound level of irresponsibility here and the fun and convenience of this small airport for the entitled does not out weigh the vast number of residents and citizens who live in close approximation to SMO.


If you are really serious about the money that the airport supposedly "cost the taxpayers" Look at what the library costs or the park dept or any of the other services you "Don't use".
You will be amazed at how much money the library can waste.

What about the fire dept and the police dept. When was the last time you "used" them?


I was running about 4 blocks from the airport one time and the stench and fumes almost made me keel over. I had to run through the fumes for 3 blocks until it dissipated.


Charles, you sound on the surface as a pretty bright health conscious person what with the running and all.

Why the hell would you run right by the airport, by the end of the runway where the jets are where they sit and idle and according to some, actually make a tremendous amount of NOISE?

And then continue to run right through it?

Good thing there wasn't a jet fuel tanker truck overturned and on fire.
You could have been seriously burned running right through the flames!!

Did you not hear the noisy jets?

You people are so laughable.
Are you just making up stories or are you really dumb enough to do that?


I realize all these pilots and aviation members have been told to pummel these comments with their perspective and have little to no idea what is going on here.

With everything there are risk benefit ratios and the health risks associated with the airport's pollution and its lack of safety, due to short runways vastly, far outweigh any purported benefit by pilot's and aviation owner's claims.

Like the situation I discussed previously that took place in Chicago -- SMO doesn't have to be turned into a shopping mall. In Chicago their airport was turned into a public park.

(Writers note:  The city of Chicago has no funding to create and maintain a park on the site.  Consequently it sits vacant and deserted for the most part, unkept and abandoned).


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