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A plan to pay SMO flight schools to conduct repetitive takeoff and landing practice at other area airports during weekends and federal holidays only will be decided next month.
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A plan to pay SMO flight schools to conduct repetitive takeoff and landing practice at other area airports during weekends and federal holidays only will be decided next month.

News, City Council, Santa Monica, Santa Monica Airport

Santa Monica Airport Landing/Takeoff Relocation Plan For Flight Schools Nose Dives

Posted Jun. 29, 2012, 1:45 am

Parimal M. Rohit / Staff Writer

Santa Monica council members for a moment thought they had approved a new program on Tuesday that would have paid flight schools at Santa Monica Airport (SMO) to operate their training programs at other airports. Instead, thanks to the dissenting vote of one council member the policy’s final outcome was tabled to another meeting, ergo allowing SMO’s flight schools to continue operating as is.

Though four of the five members present at the June 26 council meeting voted in favor of creating a pay program to have SMO flight school train at other Southern California airports, a technicality prevented the 4-1 vote from taking effect.

According to city council procedure, any policy that involves an appropriation must have at least five members on the dais vote in its favor. It is essentially a rule that requires support in excess of two-thirds, not a simple majority, of the entire council (not just those present) to be approved.

With two council members – Mayor Richard Bloom and Council member Bobby Shriver – not present at the June 26 meeting, that meant a unanimous vote of 5-0 was necessary in order for the pay to train elsewhere initiative to be formally adopted.

However, Council member Bob Holbrook’s “Nay” vote meant that the initiative had four of the potential seven votes – less than two-thirds of the council – in support.

Accordingly, the agenda item will be tabled until one of the council’s July meetings where at least six members would be present.

The agenda item in question would have, if approved, appropriated $90,000 over a six-month period to be paid to SMO’s flight schools. The money was to be used as a reimbursement “who conduct repetitive takeoff and landing practice” to do so “at other area airports during weekends and federal holidays only.”

As part of the test program, flight schools would have been reimbursed $150 per qualifying flight to cover the costs of flying to anairport other than SMO.

Staff hoped that by creating such a program where flight schools trained at other airports on weekends and federal holidays, residents of Santa Monica, Mar Vista, and Venice would enjoy a reduction in airplane noise and the risk of a crashes into local neighborhoods would be minimized.

“The proposed voluntary flight training reduction incentive test program is designed to reimburse flight schools who conduct repetitive takeoff and landing practice at other area airports that would have normally occurred at Santa Monica Airport,” City staff stated. “This program would reduce the noise impact associated with repetitive aircraft operations during weekends and holidays.”

It was a public policy that four of the council members agreed with: fewer training exercises over Santa Monica neighborhoods during days when more people are likely to be home seemed to be an agreeable – and safe – proposition.

However, Holbrook did not feel he could support the pay to train elsewhere program because he observed opposition among community members.

“To date, not one single person who I’ve received an email from or talked to, including leadership of the different groups around the airport, wants us to do this,” Holbrook said. “The people just don’t want us to do it.”

If it were approved, the test program would have gone into effect on July 1 and continued through December 31.

According to City staff, nearly 40 percent of SMO traffic is local flights.

“Local flights are those operations performed by aircraft that remain in the local traffic pattern or the designated controlled airspace for the airport, generally within five nautical miles of the Airport. Many of these operations are repetitive takeoffs and landings being performed as part of pilot flight training,” staff said.

City staff further added: “Airport staff receives numerous noise complaints from residents regarding these repetitive types of local operations especially during weekends and holidays when most people are at home. The impact of the noise from these operations is more disruptive because it is a constant presence in the area, even though the volume fluctuates.”

The test program, if approved when it is reconsidered, would require SMO flight schools to conduct at least four takeoffs and four landings at another airport in order to be eligible for the $150 reimbursement.

Joe Justice, owner of Justice Aviation, said he came up with the idea for the pilot program.

“All the flight schools at Santa Monica would like to create an environment where there is going to be a little less flak from the neighborhood,” Justice told The Mirror. “There will be those neighbors of course who would complain no matter what was done because they would only be satisfied with the closure of the airport.”

Justice said the flight schools would not make any extra profit from the program.

He said the $150 reimbursement would reduce the cost for the student if they choose to make use of the program and conduct landings and takeoffs at other nearby airports such as Van Nuys, Burbank, and Hawthorne.

“The amount of money for us is pretty much the same because we were going to give the profit to the student as a reduction in their cost,” he said. “It really doesn’t matter to me whether we do the pattern work in Santa Monica or whether we make use of this program and take it somewhere else. It’s not a loss if we don’t get it. It’s something that was honestly thought of to make it better at the airport. Once again, the flight schools feel to some degree that we’ve offered an olive branch to the neighborhood and they took it and slapped us with it.”

The funding level proposed by City staff would encourage a maximum of 600 training flights to use other area airports. This represents a potential reduction of up to 4,800 takeoffs and landings on weekends and holidays during the six-month test period, staff added.

-- Additional reporting Brenton Garen

Post a comment


Jun. 29, 2012, 2:50:54 am

Patrick said...

"Not in my back yard!" So it's ok to force more traffic to fly around your neighbors in Van Nuys and Hawthorne just to quiet a few petty homeowners who bought their houses knowing full well they were in a flight path? This is one of THE most ridiculous things I've ever heard of. However, I think the homeowners who complain should foot the bill in additional property taxes. This is really about the $$. The city council want to close the airport so developers can build condos and they'll get their kickback money. The homeowners are mad their property values might drop a little because of the airport...but it was there first. Money. That's all this is about.

Jun. 29, 2012, 3:05:04 am

JeanB said...

It would almost be better if Justice pocketed the profit than this. If this plan goes forward, we must worry about the law of unintended consequences. The city subsidies will result in it becoming cheaper for people to learn to fly at SMO than elsewhere, so we can expect that the result will be a greatly increased number of students signing up to fly, with the inevitable result that there will actually be even more flight activity at SMO than there was before. This would further drive up the projected cost of city subsidies, and should the subsidy program be cancelled, the result would be that the city had succeeded in making things far worse for the community around SMO as all these additional students revert to pattern flying right here. If you start to feed a monster, you can never stop or it will turn on you.

Jun. 29, 2012, 3:21:37 am

Kimberly said...

What I want to know is if the neighbors will appreciate the obstructed views of high rise apartments and additional rush hour traffic. There is no way the city is going to turn that property into a huge dog park! Also, wasn't this supposed to be about jet noise and pollution? Now it's little planes and safety. If it's safety then we need to ground all planes at all airports because one could crash anywhere. So which story are we spinning today?

Jun. 29, 2012, 3:36:35 am

Tony said...

I'm one of those student pilots they're hating on. I'd be happy to take your money to help fund my dream of flight! You should know that the risks of these crashes you worry about is pretty low compared to other things that might get your home. I'd be more worried about earthquakes or fires. I've spoken to a lot of neighbors and most of them like the airport. They bring their kids to watch planes and they all said they knew about the airport when they moved in. I think this is a small but very loud minority causing this. There is obviously some sort of agenda here with the city. The airport has nice views in all directions. I'm sure it makes sense to them to build high rise luxury residences instead. Closing the airport would be the loss of an under-appreciated and misunderstood asset to the city.

Jun. 29, 2012, 3:40:23 am

Truth said...

Bob Holbrook must be the only one in the bunch who isn't corrupt with kickback money in his pocket.

Jun. 29, 2012, 4:26:38 am

Dog is My Copilot said...

I would agree with JeanB in regards to the law of unintended consequences. There is a chance that if what the aviation school owner says is true - that he will use the money to make flight school cheaper for students - then of course there will be a even greater chance the number of students interested in using the school would increase. Thank goodness that Council member Bob Holbrook had the courage and intelligence to vote against this ill-founded idea. I am surprised other council members were not able to analyze this situation better. I also believe the airport has value that some people are not able to see or are blinded by emotions and financial concerns - that includes both sides - particularly in this article as well as in the past the comments, the aviation school owner seems charged with negativity. I think he poorly assessed why the city determined this to be a wrong choice. I believe the Council is right if you give any citizen a snapshot of the pros and cons of this situation - no one would be willing to prorate the flight school training. Back to the airport - I am sure there are a few that would like to remove the airport for their own devious reasons and turn a profit from this city resource or use it for there own selfish reasons but most people that have an legitimate informed opinion are concerned about air quality, pollution, noise abatement and overall safety. For those that think the argument is about who came first - the airport or the neighborhood and the people - you might be wiser spending your time thinking about the chicken and the egg because you are late for breakfast. There is almost no feasible way to remove the people and the neighborhood from this discussion but there is certainly a way to remove the airport so I would recommend forget about using that absurd logic. It just harms your point of view. I am in favor of mitigating the airport operations and areas where they could cause the most harm such as the high frequency noise generated by aircraft when taxiing by the under 5 yr playset at Clover Park. The proximity of that playset to aircraft operations is almost a crime and the small fingerprint should be repositioned elsewhere in the park. Lastly, for those that haven't checked out the air museum, the airport activities, and the other community events that are held in this arena. I would suggest to try to keep an unclouded open mind and do everything you can to ensure what is best for the community takes place - not just yourself.

Jun. 29, 2012, 4:54:59 am

JeanB said...

See this morning's post on CASMAT for more on the danger of this idea:

Jun. 29, 2012, 5:36:54 am

Martin Rubin said...

Joe Justice's olive branch is coated in his excrement. The community is an obstacle for his ability to profit at the expense of the health, safety, and quality of life of many thousands. However, many in the community are aware of his shenanigans and they are fed up. Joe Justice came up with this scheme and SM City Council is giving it credence despite the fact that these operations were not supposed to happen in the first place. from Santa Monica Municipal Code Restrictions on Aircraft Operations Section The following regulations apply to operations at the Airport: "Touch and Go and Stop and Go operations are prohibited on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, and during weekdays between one-half (1/2) hour after sunset and 7:00 a.m. of the following morning." Flight schools have circumvented the intent of this regulation through the use of the taxi-back maneuver, clearly disregarding the will of the City of Santa Monica. Rather than offer compensation to flight school operators to perform weekend and federal holiday pattern flights at other airports, the City should let the flight schools know that by disregarding the intent of the Santa Monica Municipal Code regulations, flight schools have proven to be untrustworthy. Therefore, upon expiration of their present lease agreements, flight schools will no longer be able to base their operations at Santa Monica Airport. Really, after twenty years of trusting SM City regarding SMO Council has proven to consistently get it wrong. And yet they continue to ask for the community's trust. Actually, Council should trust the community as did Robert Holbrook.

Jun. 29, 2012, 10:18:23 am

Bunk said...

Google the above poster, Martin Rubin and you'll find out he is one of the "not in my backyard" guys yelling about closing SMO. He has his own agenda for sure.

Jun. 29, 2012, 10:51:46 am

Donald said...

Dear Bunk, Even if Martin Rubin has an agenda, how does this negate the Santa Monica Municipal Code? If true, these schools should not be allowed to be having these classes on the weekends and holidays anyway. Right? What does it matter about Mr. Rubin's personal feelings?

Jun. 29, 2012, 11:26:40 am

Jill S said...

Again the city Of Santa Monica and the City Council are out to lunch. The city mandate already hinders flight schools on week-ends and holidays, but the city does not enforce the law? So why pay Joe Justice the owner of Justice Flight Schools to go somewhere else. He is the one who proposed this ridiculous proposal. More money in his pocket. Close the airport and fight the FAA- We living in West LA, Venice , Mar Vista and Santa Monica are sick and tired of the airport politics and the city not listening to a huge area that is being affected by the noise and pollution from this airport . This has nothing to do with property value only peace and quiet in my home. Pilots who do not live here should not be telling us what we feel and hear. CLOSE THE AIRPORT in 2015

Jun. 29, 2012, 11:28:51 am

George P Stevens said...

Hey Joe Justice here is your $90,000 go party with the corrupt city council.

Jun. 29, 2012, 2:19:36 pm

Reality Check said...

Who owns all those multi-million dollar jets and private helicopters out there at SMO? Multi-national corporations and celebrities with very deep pockets, lobbying groups and political pull. They have teams of lawyers that could keep you tied up in court forever and bankrupt most people. They are the 1% and they will win. They always win because they make the rules. That airport is going to be there for a long time to come so get used to it.

Jun. 29, 2012, 2:27:34 pm

Close the 405 said...

I agree we should close SMO on the basis of noise, pollution and safety. On that basis I also believe we should close the 405 and 10 freeways. We must also close LAX and all other LA airports for those reasons. It applies to everyone you know. We should also ground all of those noisy police helicopters. And don't get me started in the fire trucks and ambulances! They are polluting and noisy vehicles so they must go too. See where this is going?

Jun. 29, 2012, 2:39:56 pm

West Angelino said...

To the tiny minority of you that want the airport closed: The majority of the millions of the rest of us have a message for you - You live in LA. It has one of the filthiest air qualities and most densely populated parts of the world. It's on a fault line that will indeed go someday. You might want an airport nearby when that happens and you need supplies and medivacs flown in when the streets are impassable. You breathe this filthy car exhaust smog 24/7. There is only a thin perception of safety in an urban area from crime, car accidents, disasters and any number of forces out of your control. So this is what you choose to belly ache about? A little airport! I think you might be happier in someplace more rural and tranquil. Far, far away from the noises and scary things here in LA. You're being petty and we're getting sick of hearing it.

Jul. 2, 2012, 6:31:14 am

VeniceB said...

My home/family has lived at the same Venice address for almost 100 years - before the airport (for all those ppl who think the airport can do whatever it wants b/c it is old). Every 10 minutes my home is buzzed by a plane on its way to land. This was never the situation even 25 years ago. If we all agree that cicumstances change, then why do we assume they change in favor of the airport? How about the thousands of people who actually LIVE here?

Jul. 2, 2012, 12:09:16 pm

Leo said...

@VeniceB "If we all agree that cicumstances change, then why do we assume they change in favor of the airport? " For the same reason we still allow the 405 and 10 to be open even though they are a traffic and pollution nightmare for us on the west side. For the common good. It is a feeder airport that takes the pressure off traffic at other airports. No way can you disperse all those planes in a way that is convenient for aircraft operators in west LA. It serves a vital transportation function in emergencies. It is an important resource to aviation in LA including jobs and revenue for the city. Yes there is more air traffic now than years ago. There are more cars on the road too. It's hypocritical to nitpick the airplanes when you don't complain of sirens on fire trucks, car traffic or any other noise and unpleasantries of modern, urban life. I personally hate cell towers but I use a phone. I'll bet you hop on a plane once a year and fly over someone's head. You get used to it or you move along somewhere quieter... I hear Montana is nice. I'm sorry the world had to go and get itself in a big damn hurry. Those newfangled flying machines had to ruin it.

Jul. 3, 2012, 3:24:35 am

JusticeA said...

There is a big difference between SM airport and the 405. Millions of people use the 405, many for essential travel to/from work - only a relatively few use the airport - yet they create a disproportionate amount of noise and nuisance to entire neighborhoods. I have lived in LA my entire life and have never once used SM airport for anything, let alone something necessary or important. In fact, I cannot remember a single friend or family member who has done so either. LAX is also noisy, etc.; however it serves as an essential hub for shipping companies and MILLIONS of travelers. SM airport is a holdover from a time when space was plentiful - no one would build it today knowing the high density of the west side. Time's change and the airport provides a tiny minority with a place to fulfill their hobby interests, which they can easily take to a better situated airport such as Hawthorne or Torrance.

Jul. 3, 2012, 4:22:34 am

FrankB said...

This will probably never happen in my lifetime, but imagine if the airport were turned into a park, or other public space... Consider who would benefit? Thousands of families, neighbors, and the S.M. community. Everyone from the neighborhood children to retirees. Who would be unhappy? People who own their private airplanes, people with $$$ who can afford to take charter flights, people who can afford flight lessons and want to test their skills over Mar Vista, SM, and Venice.

Jul. 7, 2012, 3:32:58 pm

Torrance said...

I think all the pilots of Torrance, Hawthorne, Van Nuys, etc should contact AOPA and organize a mass fly in to Santa Monica airport. Just do a fly over because you want to avoid the landing fee. Make sure we do it on a Saturday. I'll start hitting the blogs trying to get this going. Seriously! "Not in my backyard" you say? We'll see about that.

Jul. 7, 2012, 3:35:51 pm

FrankBS said...

Yeah FrankB, not in your lifetime for sure. They'll build a high rise condo and shopping mall on that property and then you can gripe about the traffic. You are a pawn of the developers and you don't even know it.

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