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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.

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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.

Richard B June 14, 2012 at 12:40 AM
And what about the loud and dangerous jets ? Spend the money on closing the airport all together when the lease is up in 2015. Keep fighting the FAA and the arrogant pilots and close it down ! That's the only solution. What about Hawthorne Airport and Torrance Airport and Van Nuys Airport. These airports are not so close to residential homes and should be noted as alternatives to SMO-
Gary Cook June 14, 2012 at 04:15 AM
The loud and dangerous jets? Fight the arrogant pilots? You have some kind of problem with those that have gone to school and spent large sums of hard-earned money, to learn to fly. To me, it sounds like you and a few others making unreasonable complaints about the airport, are merely jealous. You can not fly an aircraft, so are going to try and punish those who can? That is so obvious, and pathetic. Yes, the airport was there first, and it's still a viable argument against any closing due to some selfish cry-babies that knowingly purchased property near the FAA-funded, public airport. Airports fill an important role in cities across America, whether you want to see it or not. Airports generate tax revenue in several different ways; parks are money pits. You not only don't have the finances to build, staff, and maintain a park, but also do not have the financial means to pay possibly millions of dollars necessary to properly close an airport. There is no money, California is broke. Now focus on an important issue, and forget the idiotic complaining about the sound airplanes make when they take-off and land.
Martin Rubin June 14, 2012 at 05:54 AM
There is no arguing the fact that today, Santa Monica Airport (SMO) and the surrounding residential communities are very different than what they were. Who can be blamed for the present day situation? I’m sure there is plenty of blame to go around. However, come July 1, 2015, the future of Santa Monica Airport should be determined by the present situation and not be based on its history. Yes there are many legendary stories about the airport’s history. But the stories are just that - history. We need to move into the future by focusing on the present. That’s just sound logic. The city of Santa Monica will need to decide what is in the best interest of everyone, especially the Santa Monica and Los Angeles areas.
Dan Charney June 14, 2012 at 06:15 AM
I am for keeping it and the school open - it's not the small single engine craft or even some of the twin engine craft that make the noise- it's the small jet craft- it's a nice long runway and the schools are great- it's a really wonderful place with all sorts of cultural events and artist housing - and a new museum- keep the airport for the homey pilots- make the noisy small jets go elsewhere
Gary Cook June 14, 2012 at 02:52 PM
That's just sound logic? In who's book? Martin, the idea that one should not look at history or review the past before making a decision, is the very kind of thinking that gave us Barack Obama. And look at America today. Never mind Barry's Communist activities while he was in college. Oh, the fact that he has close ties to the New Black Panthers means nothing. Let's ignore his history, and vote for him because he could be the first black president. The point here is that history gives us volumes of information useful in the decision-making process. Looking only at today, and possibly what may or may not happen tomorrow for guidance, is the way children think. The FAA and the majority of the flying public that support innovation and aviation will ultimately make the decisions regarding any airport's future, just as they have for more than 100 years.
Richard B June 15, 2012 at 04:33 PM
I agree with Dan. Get rid of the Jets and Flight Schools and all is well. This seems like a great compramise. Just Keep the small local planes, the real aviation enthusiasts.
SMO is killing us June 15, 2012 at 05:27 PM
If the city approves this plan, will the planes be taking off and heading directly north? Simply, the community already flooded the airport with complaints with the 250 heading test program. Won’t this effectively do the same thing?
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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