It has been awhile since we heard about the 250 degree heading for IFR piston aircraft departures that caused such a stir.
The 180 day test procedure took place from Dec. 10, 2009 until June 7, 2010.
The FAA wanted to make it permanent.
Santa Monica residents and Santa Monica City officials were vigorously against it.
Residents of Venice and Mar Vista were for it. I was for it.
Who prevailed? Has anybody, besides me, been wondering?
Having not been aware of any recent official statement from the City of Santa Monica, the FAA, or from Congressman Henry Waxman who was aligned with Santa Monica on this issue, on Tuesday, I called the FAA to inquire.
“The FAA is no longer pursuing the 250° heading”, I was told by Steve May, Special Programs Integrator, FAA Western-Pacific Region,
Great news for Santa Monica!
Terrible news for Venice, and Mar Vista!
Most people are unaware of the following facts that I believe are essential to understanding the full environmental impacts related to the 250 degree turn, so let me present a little review:
In 1990 SMO's IFR departure procedure for all IFR aircraft (including jet aircraft) was the 250 degree turn "immediately after departure." This route went over Santa Monica toward the pier. There was no need to receive clearance from the LAX tower, so hold times were minimal. By the way, in 1990 there were 1,025 total annual jet operations. That’s 512 jet takeoffs or less than two per day.
Then, a change took place and all IFR aircraft were advised to discontinue the 250 radial turn, and were instead routed straight out over Venice which included implementing a departure delay to coordinate with LAX air traffic controllers. This was a major change in the amount of air pollution generated into the Los Angeles neighborhoods to the east because of greatly increased idle/hold times and aircraft backed up waiting for LAX tower clearance.
The change had no environmental review and there was no public notice and no community involvement.
Why the change in 1990? I have been asking the City of Santa Monica as well as the FAA that question for some time, and all I get are blank stares. Not that hard of a question. Let me present some of the facts at hand.
Below are two versions for why the change occurred for your consideration.
From the City of Santa Monica’s Airport website at smgov.net/Departments/Airport/Airport_History.aspx:
In 1990 the FAA proposed an amendment to SMO's IFR departure procedures changing the 250 degree turn "immediately after departure" to "at reaching the LAX 310 degree radial." This change was instituted as a result of the Cerritos air crash.
From information supplied by Plaintiff’s Attorney (Case # SC 055183 Superior Court, County of Los Angeles, tried 2001):
“August 20, 2001 – Testimony by Jeff Mathieu, Regarding “250 Degree Radial Turn Procedure” Jeff Mathieu, former Santa Monica Airport Director, was asked about the agenda item from a meeting of the 1991 'L.A. Air Traffic Users Forum.' Plaintiff’s Attorney recalls that the first item on the Users Forum’s agenda was a request from, Tim Walsh, who was then the Santa Monica Airport Director, to discontinue the 250 radial turn and instead implement a departure delay in coordination with LAX air traffic controllers.
From a FAA July, 2011 presentation directed to the Venice Neighborhood Council, titled "Intended Goals of the Test Procedure:"
- To increase safety and ensure aircraft were procedurally separated
- To provide the necessary lateral separation from SMO IFR piston departures and LAX north airfield departures
- Evaluate the environmental impact including aircraft emissions
Now, logic has me believing that if the FAA is reintroducing the 250 Degree Radial Turn as a safety enhancement procedure, than the SMO version stating the change was instituted by the FAA as a result of the Cerritos air crash is a contradiction.
So why did the FAA yield to the great City of Santa Monica? Santa Monica officials traveled twice last year to Washington D.C. to meet with the FAA. Could it be that they came to a backroom agreement? Maybe the FAA agreed not to fly over Santa Monica if Santa Monica dropped the idea of closing the airport come 2015. Stay tuned.
I know one thing for sure. Santa Monica Airport may look good from the observation deck, but it is a public health mess.