SMO ¬ó If a neighbor plays music too loudly, a simple request or call to the police can solve the problem. If that neighbor is an airport, the ability to improve one¬ís quality of life gets trickier.
City officials unveiled a number of ideas to tackle that problem on Monday, with suggestions that could address some of the prevailing complaints against the Santa Monica Airport.
The proposals address two main concerns about SMO ¬ó pollution of the air and ears and a lack of information about repetitive flight operations.
In many ways, the 12-page document reads like a call and response of those community issues.
Infrastructure could play a big role in reducing emissions.
According to the report, City Hall plans to work with Atlantic Aviation to install electric ground power units to replace existing gas-powered versions that are used to prep jets for flight.
Airport Manager Bob Trimborn compared the process to running a car for a few minutes to get the air conditioning going ¬ó the electricity is needed to get systems up and running before a flight.
If the power units are gas-powered, the jet sits and burns fuel while the plane goes unused. Neighbors complain about jet fuel emissions, saying it¬ís unpleasant and causes health problems.
By installing electric power units, the planes could prep without the much-hated byproducts.
Jets that fly into LAX already use that infrastructure, said Martin Pastucha, director of Public Works.
¬ìWe think it can work, it¬ís not unusual,¬î Pastucha said.
Much more unusual in the aviation world is the system City Hall hopes to install on the runway to capture images of airplanes as they perform repetitive flights called touch and goes, stop and goes or taxi backs.
The point to each of those maneuvers is to practice taking off and landing, maneuvers that student pilots have to drill ad nauseum.
That frustrates many community members, who dislike the noise of the planes flying overhead and fear that student pilots could crash into the homes below.
Those maneuvers are legal, but airport officials don¬ít have information about how often they take place. Instead, those statistics are lumped into the category of ¬ìlocal operations¬î in reports given to the Airport Commission.
The lack of information helped spawn a group called Community Against Santa Monica Airport Traffic (CASMAT), which generates reports based on observations of flights on a flight tracking system called WebTrak and in person on an SMO flight deck.
Pilots dispute details in the report, but it¬ís difficult for officials to know with any certainty who is doing what at the airport.
¬ìRight now, we have a take-off camera. When (pilots) do touch and goes, they go farther down the runway than where the cameras are,¬î Pastucha said.
City Hall is working with its vendor to explore the idea of cameras that focus on two other points so that they can get photos of the aircraft touching down and taking off.
They could determine if it was involved in a ¬ìtouch and go¬î by comparing the time each photo was taken.
The new cameras would be a ¬ìsignificant step forward¬î as long as they work reliably, said John Fairweather, founder of CASMAT.
¬ìI¬ím sure I speak for all of those of us in the community that spend time monitoring SMO activity when I say this is a welcome development,¬î Fairweather wrote in an e-mail. ¬ìI am glad to see that city staff are delivering on the promise of greater information and openness at the airport.¬î
Martin Rubin, the leader of Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution, had a tepid reaction toward both measures, but focused on a section of the report that explored ways to improve the environmental-friendliness of SMO.
¬ìThe city has lost the meaning of the term ¬ëgreen,¬í¬î Rubin wrote. ¬ìTheir report to council lacks anything that would significantly address these public health concerns.¬î
There¬ís still a great deal of work that must be done before either idea goes into full effect.
City Hall is looking for grant funding from the Air Quality Management District to pay for studies, design and construction to install the electric systems. The cameras will have to wait until the current vendor determines if they can provide the two-camera system.
It¬ís not a common request, Pastucha said, but City Hall is committed to addressing concerns raised by residents.
¬ìThese are ideas put out by the public through the visioning process,¬î Pastucha said. ¬ìWe have someone look at those and come back with what can be done and how it would look.¬î
The release comes just a week after the City Council voted to put aside a program that would have diverted air traffic from flight schools to other airports by offering those businesses cash.
Although the program would have removed approximately 4,800 flights ¬ó and the noise, pollution and danger that they cause ¬ó the attempt to address community concerns about repetitive flight traffic was not well-received by Santa Monica and West Los Angeles residents.
Officials from other places with airports like Torrance, Oxnard and Camarillo also had an issue with the proposal, which would have directed more traffic their way.
¬ìWe try one effort and move on to the next one,¬î Pastucha said. ¬ìCouncil gave us direction to make the airport a more amenable neighbor, and that¬ís what we¬íre trying to do.¬î