A Cessna idles down the runway at Santa Monica Airport. (File photo)

SMO— A new online system that allows public access to flight track data at Santa Monica Airport went into effect Friday and is expected to save City Hall thousands of dollars over the next few years, city officials said.

There would be a savings of $10,000 each year, with approximately $20,000 during the two-year contract with the new online system, PublicVue, from Exelis, Inc., Martin Pastucha, director of Public Works for City Hall, said.

PublicVue, the new flight tracking and noise complaint system, replaces Webtrak, that was offered by company Brüel & Kjær, and whose contract expires this month. Pastucha said City Hall had been using Webtrak since 2010.

The new system allows the public to view the aircraft’s type, altitude, origin and destination airports, and flight identification, and watch the movements of flights out of Santa Monica Airport and nearby.

With Webtrak, Pastucha said there used to be a map and now there is a digital image superimposed and one can see the aircraft flying over.

Both programs use the same level of “detail,” Pastucha said.

“It continues to provide the community the data they’ve been used to getting and provide that continuity they want,” Pastucha said. “It’s the same data there, it’s just how it’s presented, a map versus using an aerial photo display.”

The agreement costs $14,000 for flight track data alone, for a total cost of $37,321 for 2013-14, city documents show. The total agreement cost is $143,103 with two one-year options to renew, according to a city staff report.

In June, the City Council voted to modify the agreement with Exelis to provide maintenance and support services for the Santa Monica Airport’s noise and operations monitoring system (NOMS); purchase of flight track data; and to provide public access to flight track data through June 30, 2015. NOMS monitors noise levels of arriving and departing aircraft to ensure compliance with the Noise Code.

Because the Federal Aviation Administration changed a policy regarding the release of flight track data recently, city officials decided to modify a contract with Exelis to provide data through the online public access flight track display system, PublicVue, and to continue providing maintenance and support of the noise and operations monitoring system.

Pastucha said Exelis is the only FAA-approved third party that can provide reliable and accurate flight track data to the airport.

Martin Rubin, director of Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution, said it’s too early to tell how the new system will perform. CRAAP is a coalition of Westsiders fighting to shut down Santa Monica Airport or at least dramatically cut back on the number of flights there.

Rubin said he was getting comfortable with WebTrak and the new system appears to be just as adequate.

“Not everything is exact and you don’t get all the information you’d like to get from either, but it is a useful tool,” Rubin said. “I anticipate this one will be honed in to be as good, if not better, than WebTrak.”

The technology for PublicVue is “superior,” but the interface still needs some work to reach the same level of polish that WebTrak had, John Fairweather, founder of Community Against Santa Monica Airport Traffic, or CASMAT, said. Fairweather said the number of map choices, like a satellite overlay or roadmap, are improvements.

“I think [for] people it may take a while to get used to it, but they will be able to do everything they’re used to being able to do,” Fairweather said. “I think the level of integration for noise reporting in public view is deeper than it was with WebTrak.”




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