Groupon Good for Flight School, Bad for Neighbors?

Neighbors say online coupons for discounted flight lessons out of Santa Monica Airport put their safety at risk. The Airport Commission will hold a hearing about the ads.

In the past two months, a flight school has sold more than 480 coupons for discounted pilot lessons. The success, however, has raised questions at City Hall about whether such promotions come at the detriment of airport neighbors.

In its first Groupon ad, Justice Aviation enticed novice pilots with this language: "man the controls and try steep turns while flying over the Santa Monica Pier, Malibu Hills, and scenic landmarks."

The attempt to grow the business nettled some residents who said Justice Aviation was putting their safety in the hands of adventure-seeking amateurs.

So the second ad in May was phrased more delicately. The ability to take steep turns would be "far away from civilization and guided by the instructor" and after the passenger had his thrill, the aircraft would "gently float back to Santa Monica Airport."

It was a deliberate "effort on our part to try to make our neighbors believe reality: that dangerous maneuvers are not being done over their homes," said owner Joe Justice.

At a future meeting, the Santa Monica Airport Commission will discuss whether such ads violate city policy or lease agreements. It will be the first in a series of discussions the commission, which serves as an advisory body to the Santa Monica City Council, intends to hold to examine actions of flight schools that may "increase noise, emissions, and crash risks for surrounding communities."

"To me it looks like a ride in an airplane, does he have the right to do that?" one commissioner questioned in March after Justice Aviation released its first Groupon.

"I do think it's fair to use this an example of activities of a flight school that may or may not be consistient with its [Commercial Operations Permit] and may or may not be consistent with city policy," said

At the commission's March meeting, Deputy City Attorney Ivan Campbell said his hunch was that advertising for flight training services would fall within the perimeters of a COP.

"It’s far fetched for me to believe that people would think I would go into business to not be in business," Justice said. He he won't attend the hearing on his Groupon ad, likely to be held in June, because he believes the commission looks unfavorably at flight schools.


"Until such time the Airport Commission returns to what it once was, a forum represented by both sides... I don’t really desire to partake in any of the meetings," Justice said.

But that's what Brown said he wanted to do. The late chairman said he hoped a hearing would give the flight school the opportunity "to come in and explain [its] action, which might put it an entirely different light than people think it is."

Paul May 23, 2012 at 06:41 AM
You are more likely to get killed in the tangled mess of traffic on 23rd and airport way. the airport has been there 100 years if you didn't notice when you bought your house.
natalie mcadams May 23, 2012 at 01:01 PM
If the airport looked like it did 100 years ago, there would be no problem.
an interested observer May 23, 2012 at 07:55 PM
thanks Olivia for letting me know about the accidents. Should we stay off the freeways as well? As for torturing your soul every time an airplane flies overhead, you have my sympathies. I don't know how you keep a balance in your life. We are still looking forward to our flight. It seems no matter what people do in their lives someone else has to suffer. C'est la Vie.
natalie mcadams May 23, 2012 at 08:10 PM
Wow, interested observer, I bet you got an A in Empathy. Keep in mind that karma comes around. Enjoy your flight!
Richard B May 23, 2012 at 08:43 PM
Great. Glad you all got groupons for flying. Lets hope you don't crash and burn. Oh wait that never happens?
an interested observer May 23, 2012 at 09:12 PM
Thanks Natalie, That is sweet of you. You're so right, I hope her Karma stays positive though.
Anthony C. Roberts May 29, 2012 at 01:58 AM
Side slips are not a dangerous maneuver; they are used to safely counter a crosswind or slow down an airplane. Missed approaches reflect an educated decision by pilots in the interest of safety. The level of competence required before a student pilot is allowed to solo far exceeds the level required to put a teenager in a car by themselves. If you have an irrational fear of the airport and airplanes, perhaps you should have done more due diligence before buying real estate in the vicinity; please don't try to make others pay for your poor decisions.
Anthony C. Roberts May 29, 2012 at 03:10 AM
Of the 5000+ airports in the US, less than 600 offer scheduled flights (like you might see flying out of LAX). Of those few that do offer scheduled flights, significantly fewer have flights out of LAX. Airports like Santa Monica cater to aircraft serving many of these other destinations. I also suspect that lines at LAX rank very low in the decision process of a pilot or passenger flying into or out of Santa Monica. (As an aside, the prospect of being groped by your friendly neighborhood TSA employee would rank a bit higher on my list.) To purport that SMO has no reason to exist is simply baseless.
Anthony C. Roberts May 29, 2012 at 03:22 AM
As someone who also grew up around small planes and 100LL, it would be a stretch to say that I have experienced brain damage as a small child. You may have a point if you are talking about drinking or bathing in the stuff; parents should not be using leaded or unleaded avgas as baby formula or bathwater. In what quantities does avgas emission cause permanent brain damage? What sort of damage? Does it only affect small children? Just a bit of cognitive dissonance on my part, because people involved in aviation have been some of the brightest and friendliest people I have had the privilege to know. Also, given your rather apocalyptic view towards leaded avgas, why/how does jet exhaust concern you more than lead?
Anthony C. Roberts May 29, 2012 at 03:26 AM
I suspect that if your house looked like it did 100 years ago, there would also be no problem. Perhaps you could revert your house to its previous state?
Peter Nott May 29, 2012 at 01:54 PM
SELFISH NIMBYS If SMO airport is closed - that traffic will have to land and take off somewhere else thus making that much additional noise and crashing over someone else’s house i.e. near Van Nuys, Orange county, Torrance, Burbank, etc. Why should they bear the additional burden caused by poor planning of someone who bought a house near SMO airport?
natalie mcadams May 29, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Anthony the level of knowledge now versus when you were a child is vastly different. I would suspect when you were a child we drove with cars with leaded gas and used leaded paint. How do you know if your intelligence level was diminished by the lead? Simply b/c you function in the world doesn't mean you didn't suffer some damage. My statistics come from all of the studies done and reports presented by well established agencies such as the EPA, UCLA, SCAQMD. If you want to educate yourself, go to the following website http://www.jetairpollution.com/ and check out the results presented at Senator Ted Lieu's hearing. Further, the bigger issue is the jet fuel emissions. There is no question that these toxic emissions contain carcinogens and have detrimental effects on children. And so what does the City of Santa Monica do - build a children's park at the tail end of the jets. Further, SMO issued a report to its employees warning them not to be within 300 feet of the jet blast so maybe the reason they are not suffering more damage is that they are heading the warning and going inside during take offs. Unfortunately those of us who live nearby don't want to be prisoners in our homes. As it is we do grab the kids and take them inside when a jet is idling, as they do a lot, for up to 25 minutes waiting for clearance from LAX b/c the traffic at SMO interferes with their flight paths. Why? b/c the City of SM flies a pattern that avoids going over their residents.
natalie mcadams May 29, 2012 at 03:31 PM
I really have no problem with being called a NIMBY. I don't think this should happen in anyone's backyard. That's the whole point - there is insufficient space between the Santa Monica airport and homes. This is not the fault of anyone except the City planners who allowed the proliferation of homes b/c they wanted more revenue in an area that had an airport. However it has been part of the City's plan since back in the 1970s to close the airport as soon as possible. The good news is that they will be able to do this in 2015 when the current lease with the FAA expires. There is a good portion of the land that is a part of that lease that never was a part of the original War Powers grant. When the city reclaims that land, the runway will only be 3000' long. No more jets, very few props, no problems.
Anthony C. Roberts May 29, 2012 at 04:39 PM
Your jetairpollution.com makes reference to a study commissioned by the EPA with respect to lead concentrations in the vicinity of SMO in response to neighbors' complaints about lead from small aircraft. Their conclusion clearly shows that off-airport lead concentrations are overwhelmingly below their standard acceptable level, which itself was tightened by an order of magnitude (a factor of 10 for the non-sciency types) in 2008. A summary with pretty pictures is available at http://www.smgov.net/uploadedFiles/Departments/Airport/CommissionMeetings/EPA%20Lead%20Modeling%20Study%20Presentation.pdf From my cursory reading of your anti-airport advocacy website, it seems clear that the nearby residents don't like airplane noise and want higher property values. These nearby residents moved in after the airport was built; here is a 1929 photo of the field: http://www.smgov.net/uploadedImages/Departments/Airport/SMO25(2).JPG It is abundantly clear that residents want to remove the airport that existed long before they moved into the area to increase their own property values at the expense of the people that use the airport. Lacking real grounds for what amounts to a de facto eminent domain seizure, residents grasp for any shred of evidence they can cite to advocate the immediate need for airport closure. When the EPA, an organization not exactly friendly to aviation, publishes a study that basically clears the airport, its on to the next cause célèbre du jour.
James Sloat May 29, 2012 at 05:51 PM
How about this. No more homes within 1 mile of SMO. Maybe like the west end of LAX. Bring in the bulldozers.
Peter Nott May 30, 2012 at 09:24 AM
It is not the city's fault that your home is what you consider too close to the airport - IT IS YOUR FAULT THAT YOU CHOSE TO PURCHASE YOUR HOME TOO CLOSE TO AN AIRPORT. Stop trying to transfer the blame for your poor decisions to others. MOVE YOURSELF rather than expect others to move because of your self inflicted problems.
Peter Nott May 30, 2012 at 09:47 AM
Yes lead poisoning is a very big problem that we definitely must address. There are 1,200 people shot dead in LA County every year and about 30,000 in the nation. The worst form of lead poisoning is a hot lead bullet. Why don’t you do something to stop that? Further more if you move the airplanes somewhere else those people will be poisoned. If there is in fact any incidence of lead poisoning, you are simply and selfishly transferring your issues onto someone else’s residence. If I were as unhappy with my location I would move – easy solution rather than trying to put many people out of work and destroy their businesses.
Peter Nott May 30, 2012 at 09:50 AM
As for the long delays for jets taking off – yes this is due to Santa Monica residents transferring the noise and pollution to Venice by having the flight path moved away from their town. Santa Monica benefits from a lot of business at their airport but they transfer the negative issues to Venice – how dare they. Just like the ugly high tension power lines that supply electricity to Santa Monica that ruin Lincoln Bl where it goes through Venice but go underground when they get to the Santa Monica border so as not to spoil their nice environment. Just like they moved the feeding of the homeless at Santa Monica City Hall to the Venice boardwalk, thus transferring the transients and related problems to Venice. Jets taking off from Santa Monica Airport have to fly a long way West in the same direction as the runway and merge with departing traffic from LAX – which is what causes the long pre takeoff delays at the take off end of the runway waiting for a gap in the LAX traffic. If jets were allowed to make an immediate right turn to the North (over Santa Monica) after takeoff they could make their departures without delay because there would be no conflict with LAX traffic. However the NIMBYs in those expensive homes north of Wilshire have prevented this. Thus those of you who have homes near the waiting area at the East end of Santa Monica Airport have to suffer the jet fumes during the long take off delays. Go figure – one set of NIMBYs screwing another set of NIMBYs.
natalie mcadams May 30, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Wow Peter, you are one angry man. Have you considered Zanax as an option? Again to repeat, I don't consider being called NIMBY an insult. I say NOT IN ANYONE'S BACKYARD! There should be a established safe distance between homes and jet exhaust fumes and if that cannot be established at a given airport, then either that airport does not allow jets or that airport closes. Everywhere all around the United States. All of us get to choose our personal issues - I choose to fight for the health and welfare of my family and those who live in this area. If you choose to fight guns, that is your choice. As for your opinion of my choice of home and neighborhood, it is just that and you know what they say about opinions.....
James Sloat May 30, 2012 at 06:08 PM
Natalie you are the one that needs Zanax. Better yet you need a straight jacket and trip to a mental institution.
Peter Nott May 30, 2012 at 06:44 PM
This frequently happens - when people with no real case, who will not see logic, find the only remaining defense is to personally attack the character and or state of mind of someone they disagree with? This seems to be the level of debate you have reached? There is no anger in my words – only statements of fact and logic which you do not seem to understand or cannot refute. Thus personal attack is your last resort – shame. The person who needs mind mending drugs is someone who buys a house in an area they do not like thus definitely indicating need for psychiatric help. “It is not necessary to understand things in order to argue about them.” - - Caron de Beaumarchais As to moving flight operations to other neighborhoods: “Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live; (buying a house near an airport) it is asking others to live with what you do not want to live with.”Oscar Wilde" As for dreaming that the airport will close in a few years: "Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled." - Michael Crichton
natalie mcadams May 31, 2012 at 01:06 AM
The airport is on its way out and citing various writers - some with dubious legacies at best - isn't going to change that fact. Your tone and tenor speak for themselves. And I guess, according to your reasoning, James must be one of those who has no logic, no defense and therefore must personally attack. I have spent hours providing back up for my postions and see no further reason to debate with those of limited resources. Best of luck gentlemen, the halcyon days of flying in and out of SMO are limited.
Dan Michaelson June 13, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Natalie, you are correct piston planes fly with 100LL avgas. Lead is dangerous to everyone. The amount of lead that gets into the atmosphere from piston airplanes is virtually undetectable. This is even with instruments from the exhaust of piston planes. You talk about remedies for this that Joe Justice hasn’t taken. What remedies are these? At this time the only available option for Lycoming and TCM engines is 100LL. The FAA has encouraged the fuel industry to find a no lead substitute but at this time none exists. Jet A fuel doesn’t have lead because it is diesel fuel. The FAA has no plans to close SMO and it won’t probably happen in your life time either. I do believe that SMO is too busy for flight training.
Richard B June 15, 2012 at 04:45 PM
James Did you serve in the Military?
Dan Michaelson June 17, 2012 at 01:04 AM
What in the world makes you think the smo is closing? It is the FAA that controls the airport and the FAA alone. The city of Santa Monica has no authority in the matter.
an interested observer June 17, 2012 at 05:52 PM
James, your all talk.......no action.
Martin Rubin June 18, 2012 at 12:54 AM
To Anthony C. Roberts: The EPA did a study to upgrade how they model for lead, and they chose Santa Monica Airport for their study. Although they found measurements in the community that exceeded the new EPA standard, the test period was not done for a sufficient amount of time to mandate mitigation, but if you listen to the testimony by Kim Hoang, Air Toxics Risk Coordinator, Air Division, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, you will hear her speak about that specific fact (from 9:00 minutes) at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=And3fZWpxEc&list=PLFD3C97820F0483A6&index=7&feature=plpp_video Lead exposure has been and continues to be a significant health concern. A Duke University study of airports in North Carolina, A Geospatial Analysis of the Effects of Aviation Gasoline on Childhood Blood Lead Levels concludes a significant association between potential exposure to lead emissions from aviation gasoline and blood lead levels in children. http://ehp03.niehs.nih.gov/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1289%2Fehp.1003231 Dr. John Froines from UCLA's School of Public Health testifies, there is "No Safe Level of Lead in Children's blood". http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jz8WbgpG5gE&feature=relmfu To be continued:
Martin Rubin June 18, 2012 at 12:55 AM
When one considers that the EPA may not have taken into consideration the additive exposure of pattern-flying over the same Los Angeles neighborhoods of Venice Mar Vista and North Westdale, coupled with the Duke University findings, Santa Monica Airport neighbors living under the pattern-flight path would be remiss if they were not concerned. So, please do not dismiss lead, one aspect of concern to the public health of SMO neighbors.
Peter Nott June 19, 2012 at 10:55 AM
You are mealy using the imagined problem of aircraft exhaust pollution to get the airport closed when the problem is your own self inflicted stupid decision of having made your home near an airport. There are thousands of homes for sale or rent in West LA so go move to one of them away from an airport instead of expecting others to move from where they have been doing business for longer than you have lived here. It is purely selfish of you to suggest they move to another airport as that only transfers the issue of noise or pollution or whatever you want to dream up to other people near that airport – why should others have to live with what you do not want to live with? You are the one who should move.
Peter F. Hartmann June 26, 2012 at 11:07 PM
"very few props, no problems"? Unfortunately for your statement, I recently celebrated my 50th year of flying out of Santa Monica Airport. I still have newspaper clippngs of the raw hatred some Santa Monica area residents had for aviation. Want to talk about pollution ? In those days, the lead in aviation fuel was far greater than it is today. And the noise ? For those of you who havnt thought thru what kind of noise the "heavy recips" made when they were active at KSMO, be assured it was pretty intense. Let's be honest. Then as now, some folks hate aviation. For any number of real or imagined concerns, some folks look at any matter of technology with resentment. My personal view is that these folks are not being honest either with themselves or with us. Modern industrialized, technology-oriented countries like China and India are on a frenzy of building airports. Countries where more and more people have a intense dislike for the admitted evils that technology can bring, are focusing their often justified dislike on aviation. It was when I started taking flying lessons at KSMO in 1959, and it is today, for the very same reasons. So maybe it is better that we admit what we are becoming, and close KSMO.


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