SMO — Despite the California Legislature’s urging this week, it appears unlikely the FAA will conduct a review of safety and health concerns at Santa Monica Airport.
The state Assembly on Monday passed Joint Resolution 41, ratifying a measure previously approved by the State Senate that calls on the FAA to review aircraft noise and pollution levels and the safety of flight operations at SMO.
In announcing the approval of the non-binding resolution, Assemblyman Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), who introduced the measure, noted homes are located less than 300 feet from the airport’s runway, creating unique safety and health risks for residents.
“There is an urgent need to establish and implement a reasonable distance between aircraft operations and exposed populations,” he said in a press release. “As it stands today, there are no regulations in effect that would protect populations around airports from conditions like we have at Santa Monica Airport. These residents have been suffering for a long time. It is time for the FAA to step up and take responsibility.”
Responding to the resolution on Friday, Ian Gregor, an FAA spokesman, said the agency already ensures that aircraft at SMO comply with noise regulations and has already taken steps to improve safety and reduce pollution.
“We constantly monitor safety at airports and in the airspace all over the country, and we do not allow unsafe conditions to exist,” he said in an e-mail.
He said the FAA has made “repeated offers to address Santa Monica’s safety concerns,” and has proposed paying for an “Engineered Material Arresting System” on the airport’s runways — essentially a bed of porous concrete blocks that collapse under the weight of a plane’s landing gear, slowing down an aircraft that overruns the landing strip.
“Our proposal would create the equivalent of a 1,000 foot-long runway safety area,” Gregor said. “Unfortunately, the city rejected all of our offers.”
The FAA has also worked to limit exhaust from jets by asking pilots not to run their engines during delays and by positioning jets so their engines face away from homes until just before takeoff, he said.
Despite the FAA’s stance, airport activists who helped persuade the legislature to pass the resolution hailed it as a landmark accomplishment.
The resolution “means that the state of California believes the federal government should address the critical concerns” that residents who live near SMO have raised, said Martin Rubin, director of Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution, which sponsored the measure.
“Los Angeles bans gas leaf-blowers from use within 500 feet of homes, and yet jets are blasting off as close as 250 feet,” he said.
Bob Trimborn, director of SMO, said by Friday he had not received a response to the resolution from the FAA.
“Hopefully it’ll give the FAA a little bit of a wake-up call that the state is concerned about the safety of the operation of the airport,” he said. “We’ll track what’s going on and see how the FAA responds to it.”