SMO — A day after the Federal Aviation Administration ended its 180-day flight pattern test that sent some small propeller planes taking off from Santa Monica Airport over neighborhoods instead of over less-populated areas, residents said they didn’t detect an immediate drop-off in noise from flyovers.
“I’m not noticing an overwhelming peace and calm over Ocean Park now that the test is over,” said Planning Commissioner Ted Winterer, a resident of Ocean Park, which along with Sunset Park has been ground-zero for airplane noise complaints.
Thousands of noise complaints have been filed with airport officials since the test began in December, with residents contradicting the FAA’s claim that fewer than 10 flights per day were affected by the experimental test route.
The FAA said the test, which required some small propeller planes to turn northwest toward the Santa Monica Pier after takeoff rather than flying directly to the coast, helped reduce delays at SMO and LAX by keeping the smaller planes out of airspace shared with jets.
Residents said they noticed a high volume of planes, including jets, flying over their homes during the test.
Noise complaints at SMO skyrocketed after neighborhood groups publicized the FAA’s test, with an estimated 3,500 received since May 1, an airport official said.
The complaints are being forwarded to the FAA, which expects to complete a final report on the test route by early August, according to Ian Gregor, an agency spokesman.
“At that time, we will decide whether to move toward making the [test route] permanent,” he said. “If we move toward making the procedure permanent, we will do a thorough environmental analysis that will include public involvement.”
He said the environmental review would take at least a year to complete.
Suspicious that the experimental takeoff route was frequently used by far more planes than the FAA admitted, angry residents last month demanded an independent review of takeoff data.
Airport Manager Bob Trimborn on Wednesday said he was in the process of hiring consultants to analyze takeoff and noise data from planes leaving SMO. He said he is also hiring a firm to place takeoff data on the Internet so residents can view maps of the flight paths aircraft leaving SMO take. He said the system, which would be accessible through SMO’s website, could launch by the end of the month.
On Wednesday, the first day after the FAA halted the test, Ocean Park resident Thane Roberts said there was little sign anything had changed. He said he logged 14 planes flying over his home in the span of a little over an hour — which he said wouldn’t have happened before the test.
“To the best of my knowledge I don’t ever remember having planes coming over this close,” he said.