Flight School Incentive Program to Get More Vetting

Proposal to pay flight schools to conduct repetitive takeoff and landings at airports other than Santa Monica's will now go to the city's airport commission before it's reviewed by the City Council.

Before it decides to , the City Council will get feedback from its advisory board.

A new incentive program designed to reduce noise at the by diverting it to other airports was up for City Council approval Tuesday night, but was pulled from the agenda that afternoon so it could first be vetted by the Airport Commission at its meeting June 25.

Santa Monica's Director of Public Works Martin Pastucha said the concept had already been discussed in past meetings of the Airport Commission. The specific proposal itself, however, has not.

"We’ve talked to the commissioners about the program before, but this is really a financial decision," he said. "We have no problem waiting and giving it to the commission at the end of June."

Under the proposal, participating flight schools would receive $150 for each flight that resulted in a minimum of four takeoffs and four landings conducted at other airports on weekends and federal holidays. City staffers said it has the potential of resulting in up to 4,800 fewer takeoffs and landings during a six-month test period starting July 1.


Residents who live near the Santa Monica Airport have asked the city to come up with ways to curtail aircraft activity that they say is too noisy and toxic. But some expressed concerns about this proposal, which would be funded with taxpayer dollars. Some speculated the flight schools would turn profits off the city's payments because they are already paid by student pilots $123 per hour for aircraft time.

"I'd say running a flight school out of SMO is a lucrative business, thanks to the City and its taxpayers," wrote one Patch reader in a comment board.

But Pastucha said the schools are more likely to break-even, because the cost of operating the planes is about $250-275 per hour. The $150 will cover the school's costs, such as for gas, of traveling to airports as far as 20 minutes away, he said.

Pastucha predicts they'll fly north so student pilots can avoid LAX.

Some Torrance residents were up in arms Tuesday out of concern they might be impacted by the proposal, and asked the Santa Monica City Council for the opportunity to weigh in.

"Residents living near the Torrance Airport already experience significant negative impacts from too many training flights conducted at Torrance Airport," Richard Root wrote in an email to the City Council. I would be opposed to any change that would increase the number of those flights in our area and, if they knew about it, I would expect many other residents would also.

Pastucha said it would be up to the flight schools to determine which airports they flew into, and that city staffers do not plan to look into how the proposal might affect neighboring cities.

Jim G June 15, 2012 at 06:50 PM
When the City of Santa Monica accepted the airport under the Surplus Property Act of 1944, they agreed to several things: 1) that the property will remain an airport in perpetuity 2) that the city would not permit incompatible development (housing) around the airport that would limit its utility. Although the city of Santa Monica failed to abide by #2, the FAA has told them many times that it will enforce agreement #1. The city has not been honest with its citizens and does not have the ability to close the airport nor to force the flight schools to move or close without violating the agreements they made in accepting the property. Request and read the document that Santa Monica signed when it accepted the property.
John Londono June 15, 2012 at 08:07 PM
It is clear that the majority of opinion on the airport is for change to make the airport cleaner, quieter, and safer. I don't see how paying the small planes to fly elsewhere will solve this problem, and agreed the biggest problem is with the jets. I hope the airport commission can do something for make positive changes in that direction, but I don't think this is a good idea.
an interested observer June 16, 2012 at 01:07 AM
SMO is one of the very few if not the only one who's airport commission is made up entirely of anti-airport citizens. Amazing the Santa Monica would allow this. They should be properly renamed the Anti-Airport Commission
Richard B June 29, 2012 at 12:02 AM
Bring it on ! Time to fight for our right to breath fresh air and have a good night sleep and carry on everyday conversations without LOUD and Stinky aircrafts zooming over every 5 minutes! This airport is nothing like it was just 5 years ago. The increase in big jets and the flight schools abusing their priveledge has created this mess. The airport commission has no power and the City Council keeps playing games with the residents who want transparency and the BS to Stop ! Paying flight schools to leave is not the answer. Shut them down and stop the huge jets from using the airport. The residents have spoke loud and clear and we no longer think this airport is serving the community.
an interested observer June 30, 2012 at 09:24 PM
'fraid not Dick. Get used to it all over again. The airport will be here long after you've gone. I heard the same things from another DICK 20 years ago, saying the exact same things then. Guess what? The airport is still here and the airport will be here in 2025.


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