It was 9 in the morning, on a wonderfully sunny day, when I heard the eight words I’d been waiting for:

“Clear for takeoff, right turn at shoreline approved.”

Upon hearing those words, I increased the power, and began my ascent. This was my first flight lesson, done through a flight school at Santa Monica Airport, and it was exhilarating. It provided me with new, educational experiences. I’ve done several lessons since that day, and continue to enjoy it.

Some Santa Monica residents support the closure of flight schools at the airport due to the noise. Well, I also live in Santa Monica, in relative proximity to the airport, and can frequently hear planes taking off. Thus, I am perfectly capable of understanding the complaints. I’m not going to use the platitude of “you moved into the area surrounding an airport,” for that has been overused by supporters of the airport. In addition, using that statement seeks to minimize the complaints. I don’t believe that I have the right to minimize the concerns and complaints of residents.

However, I can show a different perspective. There’s no doubt that noise exists, however, the noise only lasts for an average of five seconds. For a student partaking in flight training, the enjoyment of the flight lasts for multiple hours. Before I began my flight training, I would occasionally complain about the noise. Now that I’ve begun flying, I cease to notice it.

The city of Los Angeles passed the Rosendahl-Hahn-Koretz resolution, which would include support for any legislation that would “close the flight schools at SMO.” Closing of the flight schools, in addition to the fiscal effects, would have negative effects on the lives of all the students who train at SMO. Students who would wish to continue their training would have to choose an alternative training environment, such as Van Nuys Airport. Having to drive 30 miles round trip for flight school would be an enormous inconvenience, when currently, I can walk to the hangar.

For those of us without automobiles, closing this airport would effectively prevent continuation of our hobby. Also, the closure of these schools would be detrimental for the city of Santa Monica, both financially, and in terms of jobs. All the flight instructor jobs would be gone, and so would the money that students pay for their lessons. Would residents of Santa Monica really choose to impede the enjoyment of others, and cause fiscal harm to this region, simply to remove a few seconds of noise?

I’ve seen stories in the Santa Monica Daily Press reporting on the controversy, and in the feedback section we can see vitriolic comments in regards to the airport. Some Santa Monica residents are looking at the most minuscule details, for the sole reason of criticizing the airport. I could perhaps understand mild frustration being discussed, but this discussion has devolved into a series of vitriolic online shouting matches, over the topic of whether someone did a touch-and-go five years ago. (A touch-and-go is a procedure in which a plane approaches the runway, touches down, as if to land, and then increases the power, to takeoff again.)

Santa Monica Airport already has strict guidelines, which include curfews on all airplane departures, as we can see on the city of Santa Monica website: “No takeoffs or engine startups … are permitted between 2300 hours local time and 0700 hours Monday through Friday, or until 0800 hours on weekends.” In addition, there are specific routing guidelines for departing aircraft. If a plane wants to fly northbound, and takes off toward the ocean, they have to wait until they reach the ocean, before turning. If a plane wants to fly southbound, they have to pass Lincoln Boulevard. Thus, I feel that the pilots are already making a significant effort to lessen the animosity.

To all opponents of this historic airport, I offer my personal experience, which is that this airport and the flight schools have given me something to do over my prolonged holiday. If we didn’t have these wonderful flight schools, I most likely wouldn’t have accomplished much over my break. I have a suggestion for all opponents of the Santa Monica Airport flight schools, which is that you take one hour out of your day, and schedule an introductory lesson. This way, you could see what I see, and gain a new perspective. And besides, our area looks wonderful from the sky.

Whether you’re over the coast of Santa Monica, or flying over Point Dume, you’ll see Southern California in an entirely different way.

If you take my advice, I hope to see you in the sky. And I hope you realize what a great asset the flight schools are for our city. And perhaps, just perhaps, you’ll feel differently about the occasional bit of noise.

Have a safe flight.

Ariel Drouault is an opinionated student, currently training to become a pilot. He can be reached at

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