SMO —Usage of the Santa Monica Airport continued to decline in 2013 but the number of jet flights increased.
Total operations at the airport dropped below a hundred thousand for the first time since at least 1990, the last year for which the Federal Aviation Administration’s website has data available.
In 1990, there were 227,801 takeoffs and landings at SMO but last year there were only 95,607. Since 2006, flight totals at the airport have declined every year but one.
There were 14,284 jet operations at the airport in 2013 compared to 12,414 in 2012. Jets made up 15 percent of the airport’s total operations in 2013, according a recent report from the Santa Monica Airport Commission.
Local residents have long complained about the noise and pollution caused by the aircraft. They also fear for their safety, with some homes located about 300 feet from where jets and propeller planes take off and land.
Jet operations, in particular, have bothered some residents.
When airport advocates argue that residents knew the nearly century-old airport was there when they moved in, residents have rebutted that jets have became more prevalent in recent decades.
Jet flights held steady at around 18,000 annually in the early 2000s but declined substantially around the same time the recession struck in 2008. Jet totals floundered around 12,000 and 13,000 annually until last year when they spiked again.
Propeller plane operations, which made up 82 percent of all flights in 2013, declined by 10 percent last year. Prop plane usage has dropped every year but one at SMO in the past decade.
Helicopter flights dropped from 3,247 in 2012 to 2,561 in 2013. Helicopter trends are more erratic over the last decade. Flights rise or fall from one year to the next but always stays between 2,300 and 3,800 annually.
While the usage of jets and propeller planes tend to follow regional or national trends, an aviation noise expert explained at the last Airport Commission meeting, helicopter flights differ more widely from airport to airport and year to year.
In the past, airport advocates have said that the usage of Santa Monica Airport is declining, in part, because of new landing fees enacted by City Council in recent years.
“The landing fees, especially for based aircraft, are discouraging flights at the airport for the smaller propeller driven aircraft,” said Bill Worden, president of The Santa Monica Airport Association. “The corporate aircraft pay the fees as a cost of doing business and pass them along. The little guy cannot do that.”
Worden added that he believes the landing fees are illegal.
The airport budget had operated at a loss to taxpayers until last fiscal year, city officials said, when landing fees helped bring the Airport Fund into the black.
“There has been a slow decline in general aviation for a score of years or more due to the rising cost of maintenance and operations,” Worden, an airport advocate, said.
Longtime airport opponent Martin Rubin noted that in the mid-1980s, jet flights increased exponentially while piston plane flights dropped by 50 percent, the result, he said of a 1984 agreement “that opened the flood gates to the private jets.”
The recession has had impacts on the number of operations, too — a rare fact that both Rubin and Worden agree on.
For Rubin, who runs Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution, the decline in total flights is negligible.
“I do not notice a drop in the present number of planes taking off and landing,” he said. “What I do notice is the ongoing stench of jet fumes permeating the neighborhood with no relief.”
I am very sympathetic to all impacted neighbors of airports. The FAA needs to be concerned as well. There should be a rule that mandates a minimum distance from the ground operations at an airport and homes. SMO is the poster child for this issue. The Public Health of Santa Monica Airport neighbors has been ignored for decades. With several studies (peer reviewed) showing enormous pollutants in the downwind neighborhood from the airport, the City of Santa Monica is making efforts to correct this. Now the FAA must do the same.
The latest aircraft from Honda and other familiar names in transportation are quieter, safer and more fuel efficient, just like their earthbound counterparts. I’m looking forward to seeing more and more of the newer aircraft as the decade unfolds, we’ve finally got some room to grow and with the best mix of aircraft. Santa Monica trained pilots are hired regularly by the airlines and safely fly our families and last minute packages home during the holidays and year-round. Our strict curfew and noise rules make better pilots and cleaner airports. Imagine what air quality would be like if freeways were closed overnight like our airport.
Marty, you communist terrorist. You want a war Marty? You have one coming to your front door! You want to steal legitimate jobs, businesses, aircraft? I don’t like the color of your house, your jobs, your family, the car you drive. Perhaps we should bulldoze your house and take your car. I know, real estate agents forgot that an airport was there and forced all you communist terrorists to sign your rental, lease or mortgage contracts? Act like a terrorist Martin, you will have to responsible for the consequenses. And terrorist, i have been to war in other communities and have not lost!
When you look at flight operations since the signing of the 1984 agreement you see that piston aircraft operations dropped by 50% from about 250,000 total annual operations to 125,000 while jets increased by a whopping 1,800% from about 1,000 to 18,000.
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