Opinion: Efforts to Quiet Santa Monica Airport Are Unreasonable

An airport noise consultant criticizes the city of Santa Monica's approach to quelling noise at the local Airport. Neighbors have unrealistic expectations about aircraft noise, he says.

Commentary submitted by Jon Rogers of Jon Rogers Aviation Consulting in Van Nuys and a former noise consultant for the Venice Neighborhood Council.

In 1973, federal courts granted airports the right to enact reasonable, non-arbitrary, non-discriminatory noise abatement procedures that pose no hazard to aviation safety. Since then, Santa Monica has imposed virtually every noise abatement procedure known to exist. Yet, they are continuously embroiled in noise issues and seem to rejoice when Santa Monica residents log noise complaints.      

My mission as a noise consultant for the Venice Neighborhood Council as well as Indianapolis Executive was to educate those who complain about aircraft noise, as to what noise they had to accept and what noise they did not have to accept. And, that they could only ask for reasonable noise abatement measures and it was my job to know the difference.    

Currently, there is substantial evidence to prove that Santa Monica’s existing and proposed noise abatement procedures are unreasonable and caused by neighbors with unrealistic expectations about aircraft noise.


Airport management deliberately designed each procedure to unreasonably transfer aircraft noise from Santa Monica to other communities without their concurrence. Beware however, that turnabout will be reasonable if other flight schools decide to export operations to Santa Monica as I have suggested.     

The FAA is very clear about noise transfer schemes. The Regional Administrator wrote to Congressman Brad Sherman:

The FAA will not arbitrarily move noise from one community to another.  Therefore, any changes will require concurrence from all impacted communities.

More recently, El Segundo objected to Burbank’s proposed curfew. Their attorney wrote:

Noise relief for one community should not come at the expense of another.

Political leaders who grandstand about airport noise are the same leaders who implement economic policies for job growth that create aviation demand and the resulting noise. I don’t recall any politician who campaigned on a platform of unemployment.

If airports are willing to take Santa Monica’s problem noise in addition to their own, then they have done the superior job of noise mitigation and community outreach. 

Santa Monica should at the minimum, emulate the noise mitigation standard set at Indianapolis Executive Airport and manage their communities to have realistic expectations about aircraft noise. 

Indianapolis Executive Airport under my watch has operated for nearly 12 years without a single noise abatement procedure, noise monitor, flight tracking system, or even “Fly Quiet” signs. Yet no one complains. In fact, during the 2012 Super Bowl, the airport hosted nearly 90 corporate jets and at least twice that many round robin operations without a single noise complaint. Which airport has done the superior job of noise mitigation?

Further, Santa Monica should cease using noise complaints and other threats to harass and intimidate pilots. This is a safety hazard. National Transportation Safety Board accident investigations indicate that since 1987, at least 181 innocent persons have been killed and another 37 were injured because the flight crews’ concern with failing to comply with noise abatement procedures fatally overrode the safety procedures that would have prevented the accident. 


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jake busey August 13, 2012 at 03:02 PM
I am a pilot, I kept an aircraft at SMO for 3 years, and I bought my first house in 1998 on regent st. in mar vista. I will share these thoughts: Santa Monica Airport will NEVER be closed, So stop arguing that point as it is futile.! I suggest the old plea bargain routine. Argue a winnable point. One thing I have observed after moving back to the area is the major increase in JET noise.10 years ago when I moored at the airport, Jets were few. now its non-stop jets all day.It's unbearable and it needs to be reduced asap. the air actually burns one's nose; I cant even have the door open. And most of the day you just hear jet engines idling at the runway end. AARGH! My fault for moving close to an airport? of course. but it's a small municipal airport, not LAX! I disagree, even in the wake of fridays accident, that small planes and schools should be run out of here. they have a far smaller impact on the community and environment, and make a helluva lot less noise. having the airport here is a necessity in the event of a natural disaster, a National safety event, as well as a part of history. the city was built around the airport. IT WAS HERE FIRST. NOT THE HOUSES. I have come to the conclusion that eager real estate agents may be to blame- leading prospective buyers astray with quotes like " oh yes, the airport is close, but there is talk of shutting it down" these buyers are then shocked and angry when it stays open. I suggest we limit the Jets quantity to10 per day.
jake busey August 13, 2012 at 03:14 PM
or simply return to pre 1995 noise restrictions of 85 decibels. roll it back. that would solve it. no more loud, pollutant jets, and the argument dies. At this point people are just so frustrated with the noise they want to close the whole thing down. But that's over reacting, as it will NEVER close completely. but as Charles mentioned, before 1995 there were no problems and people didnt complain. Let's go back to that agreement.
Charles August 13, 2012 at 09:54 PM
Hi Jake, Looks like when the FAA gets involved there is no turning back to the 85 decibels. The jet owners or those who built the jet facilities had things raised to 95 decibels because they claimed SMO was being unfairly discriminative. According to what I remember the FAA claimed that SMO couldn't limit jets/planes to 85 decibels since that was against FAA statutes. The noise is a big issue and from the independent studies seems to cause more of an impact on health aside from it being a nuisance. Things such as cardiovascular, neurological, and psychological problems are secondary and foisted upon the neighborhoods by SMO -- with healthcare paid by everyone but the jet owners and SMO. Yet the pollution, ultrafine particles in the fumes, and lack of adequate runway space all represent deep catastrophic problems that can be measured in long-term exposures or one terrible jet crash. The problem is that we really don't need an airport here and even if it was here before, the neighborhoods have overgrown the surrounding area so that an airport is no longer a viable option. I have never heard of a developer or real estate agent pushing to close the airport. I have only heard this from those in the closely abutting neighborhoods and what was written in independent credible scientific studies, such as the UCLA study on SMO and its affects on surrounding residents.
Richard B September 12, 2012 at 06:34 PM
Yes, we do not need an airport here. Between the huge loud jets and the flight schools the noise and pollution has made living here a nightmare and the city does nothing. The airport is a hazard to people living near it not just in Santa Monica but Los Angeles where the flight path has been diverted. The noise and pollution needs to stop. The airport is a money losers to the city-so why do we have it? Perhaps special interests? Close it down in 2015
Foster Norman November 30, 2012 at 09:03 PM
The airport will not close in our lifetime. Calling the airport unsafe is foolish. The percentage of pollution the airport produces in comparison to other fossil fuel burning operations in the area is extremely small. It's always, "not in my neighborhood." Figure it out and move on.


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