It’s a bird!?! It’s a plane!?!, NO, its corporate terrorism!!!!!! - Venetians fed up with Santa Monica Airport noise
By Theresa Hulme
The Santa Monica Airport is the oldest continuously operated airport in LA County and is one of the busiest single-runway general aviation airports in the nation. Built somewhere around 1919, the airport began as an army landing field but shifted to a municipal airport around 1922.
Aeronautical engineer Donald Douglas pioneered some of the first planes that could circumnavigate the globe in Santa Monica. He successfully built the World Cruiser which took the 27,000 mile trip around the world in 1924 and landed in Cloverfield Park to the cheers of thousands.
The design was incorporated into many other planes and by the end of the 1920’s, Douglas Aircraft was established as one of the most successful plane builders in the world. As the aviation era boomed, revolutionary Douglas planes such as the DC-1, 2, and 3 became the most innovative of the time. World War II demanded constant airplane production and Douglas factories built nearly 30,000 planes with a wartime workforce of 160,000 employees. Thus the residential area around the Santa Monica Airport began to be built.
After WWII, Douglas began to branch out into non-aircraft military production such as rocketry and missiles. In order to ensure a profitable future, Douglas Aircraft merged with McDonnell Aircraft in 1967 and became known as the McDonnell Douglas Corporation. In recent years, McDonnell Douglas merged with Boeing, who together, are one of the largest suppliers and builders of arms and weapons of mass destruction that are exported all around the world.
The now merged Douglas Corporation left Santa Monica in the 70’s and it became a general use public airport used mostly for small engine hobby planes.
The Airport maintained a broad ‘no jets’ policy and in the early 80’s the City of Santa Monica tried to close the airport but was sued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) The FAA, overseen by the U.S. Department of Transportation, declared that the airport was discriminating against jets and grandfathered a clause that jets under a certain weight be allowed to use the airport. The lawsuit also stipulated that the airport remain open until the year 2015 and instituted a Noise Abatement Program. The FAA, who has been questioned for catering to the interests of Big Business, irresponsibly put into force a grandfather clause that allows for newer jets to use a runway that was built in the 1930’s and isn’t equipped to handle modern aircraft.
The FAA “public affairs” representative interviewed for this article gave some inaccurate information including that “747’s will soon be using the airport” (which were verified as false by airport management) and then slammed the phone down in anger.
According to airport personnel, about half of the jets using the airport are too large for the runway and shouldn’t be using it. The unfortunate reality is that an accident will probably occur before any changes are made. As in the case of September 11th, lives will be lost due to reckless and negligent governmental policies that exclude the interests of common citizens to the benefit of corporate profit.
Sound – a complex vibration transmitted through the air, which upon reaching our ears, may be perceived as beautiful, desirable, or unwanted. It is this unwanted sound which people normally refer to as noise.
The decibel (dB) is shorthand to express the amplitude of sound. The decibel allows people to understand sound strength using numbers ranging from 20 and 120. Prolonged exposure of over 85dB is the beginning of hearing damage.
Examples of sounds at or above 85dB are a home lawn mower, a cut off saw, a jet airliner 500 feet overhead. The City of Santa Monica and the FAA set an Ordinance that the maximum sound level for the jets be at 95dB.
Noise monitors are set up 1,500 feet from each end of the runway and quoting from the Airports website, “most aircraft are capable of meeting the 95.0 dB max with changes in pilot technique or aircraft operating weight.”
The Airport is closely surrounded by noise sensitive residential areas with over 130,000 residents within 2 miles of the airport.
According to its website, Santa Monica Airport proudly proclaims “the airport maintains a proactive and extensive noise abatement program which includes a maximum allowable noise level, limited aircraft operating hours and requested noise abatement operating procedures.”
Sound convincing? Venice resident Lennie Payne says “ There simply aren’t enough noise monitors. The pilots can manipulate the reading by flying to the north or east of the monitors. Plus “most” isn’t good enough.”
Airport management and staff were extremely cooperative and informative for this article. They were happy to spend time talking about policies and procedures and promptly returned phone calls. A special department exists which logs complaints and listens well when complaints are called in. The staff walks on a slick tightrope of concerns from the understandably angry community, city council members and the interests of big business who are quick to file lawsuits.
Following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the airport has received a huge increase in jet traffic. Wealthy individuals and businesses are now using the single runway airport for chartering private jets nationwide.
Fortune 500 companies, celebrities, movie stars, etc. are using the airport as a playground to entertain interests. The security precautions at LAX and heightened fear of future attacks just don’t exist at Santa Monica. Now, using S.M. Airport, a corporate CEO literally hops off the plane and is whisked away in a car within minutes of landing.
Convenient Santa Monica Airport is just minutes from Century City, Westwood and downtown, all without having to deal with the 405. This fancy arrangement works beautifully if you are a corporate CEO.
For residents of Venice, Ocean Park and surrounding neighborhoods, however, this arrangement isn’t so sweet. O.P. resident and long-time community activist Jim Donaldson says that big business is trying to turn the airport into a mini-LAX. A concept called ‘fractional jet ownership’ is the largest contributor to the traffic at the airport. Perhaps the most appropriate analogy of fractional jet ownership is a time share.
Multi-millionaires purchase private jets and then ‘lease’ out the time that other rich people can ‘borrow’ the jet.
An interested party who has partial ownership can literally pick up the phone, reserve time, fly to Chicago, have lunch, and then fly back. The runway is positioned to the south, which flies directly over Rose Avenue, through Venice. The city of Santa Monica imposes fines starting at $2,000 (following a warning) for jet operators who violate noise levels.
However, the loudest and most disturbing part of a take off occurs right over Venice. Should Venice council and community members mobilize to impose a disturbing the peace fine? With 1,300-1,500 jet operations per month, the City of Santa Monica has got to be cashing in on irresponsible pilots violating noise levels. What is happening to the money? Is it being distributed to the very residents who are being violated and sorely disturbed?
Venice resident Ruby de la Casas, says “the sounds of the jets wake up my children. I am also concerned about the health risks that jet fuel has on my children’s lungs.”
The studies of the effects of extremely toxic jet fuel are under way and will be followed up in coming months.
The communities of Santa Monica and Venice are not the only victims of sensory rape due to airport noise. Complaints come in from all over the city. Rancho Park, Cheviot Hills, and parts of West LA are receiving the noise from jets that are landing and are permitted to land 24 hours a day. The beach communities of Venice and Santa Monica are getting the far worse sound of take-off though a loose curfew is supposedly in place from 11pm-7am.
The good news is that neighborhoods are getting together and putting a stop to the corporate terrorism that is permeating our neighborhoods. With ‘Patriot’ Acts I & II becoming an ugly reality, a theft of our civil rights, the governmental/corporate takeovers are becoming more evident every single day. If you would like to become involved and/or support efforts to stop the airport noise, please contact Jim Donaldson at 310-479-1322.
Posted: Fri - August 1, 2003 at 08:29 PM