In response to pilot Reynold Dacon’s May 27 letter, in which he warns that closing Santa Monica Airport (SMO) would bring “low-flying, large commercial jets” over Santa Monica at 2,500 feet in altitude, I disagree. Here’s what our airport manager has to say on the subject:
“During the May 8, 2012 council meeting, Mayor Pro Tempore Gleam Davis directed staff to investigate potential unintended consequences as a result of the airport closing. Specifically, would the closure of the airport allow the air carrier aircraft arriving at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) from the northwest to fly at a lower altitude?
“Staff asked the FAA’s Operations Support Group to analyze the potential impact of a reconfigured airspace if the Santa Monica Airport were to close.
“The Operations Support Group is a division of the Air Traffic Organization. Airport Support Group’s main duty is to provide operational and procedural oversight and support while promoting the effectiveness and efficiency of the National Airspace System.
“After their review, we received an e-mail from the Regional Administrator’s Office stating that their team did not have the ability or resources to speculate how the air traffic patterns or operations might look like in a ‘no airport’ scenario and that, because of the many variables that they need to consider, the resulting modeling would likely not be representative of the ultimate end result. Judging from their response, the impact from such a reconfiguration is unknown at this time.”
In addition, he states that, “VFR Aircraft [aircraft flying under visual flight rules, i.e., prop planes] using the LAX Special Flight Rules Area, located directly above LAX, have two designated altitudes — 4,500 feet northwest bound and 3,500 feet southeast bound.”
In other words, prop planes flying north and south across Santa Monica (to and from other airports such as Van Nuys and Long Beach) must be at least 3,500 feet above mean sea level. As aircraft have to maintain 1,000 feet vertical separation, Mr. Dacon’s theory that, if SMO were closed, commercial jets could fly southeast across Santa Monica at 2,500 feet, would result in them flying along below the prop planes. That seems like a completely unrealistic scenario.
In the real world, a more likely scenario is that the runway would be shortened far ahead of any closure, and a reduced runway would not lead to any alteration of flight altitudes. Even if SMO were to close, in order to maintain the required 1,000 feet vertical separation, it seems that commercial jets flying southeast across Santa Monica to get into the LAX landing pattern would still have to fly at least 5,500 feet above mean sea level, not at 2,500 feet.