By Gary Walker
Nearly 18 months after state Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Marina del Rey) held a panel discussion on the potential ramifications from pollutants emanating from a nearby airfield, Westside residents will have a second opportunity to hear from their elected representatives as well as scientists on their opinions on Santa Monica Airport Saturday, April 27 at Penmar Recreation Center in Venice beginning at 1 p.m.
The Venice Neighborhood Council’s Santa Monica Airport Committee is hosting the event and has invited Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Venice), Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl and Lieu.
The latter two represent Mar Vista.
Waxman’s office confirmed to The Argonaut April 19 that he plans to attend the community meeting.
Venice, Mar Vista and West Los Angeles residents who live near the airport have been advocating for a change in the airport’s departure path, which is designed to travel over their communities.
On Dec. 1, 2009 the Federal Aviation Administration began testing a new departure strategy for airplanes leaving the airport. Instead of the usual 210-degree heading, aircraft were directed to make a right turn soon after take-off and fly at a 250-degree heading, or angle of an aircraft to an object, taking them over Santa Monica.
The experiment, which applied to piston-powered instrument flight rules departures only, ended approximately six months later.
FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said no determination has been reached regarding the 250-degree heading.
Changing the departure policy is one of Mindy Taylor-Ross’ top priorities. Taylor-Ross, a Venice resident who is a member of the community’s Santa Monica Airport Committee, says the airplanes that take off from the general aviation airport have drastically changed the quality of life for her and many of her neighbors.
“The airport traffic that is sent over our community has increased over the last several years,” she said. “We hope that Santa Monica Airport will come together with Los Angeles to share the burden of the flight path with Santa Monica.
“We want to make it more equitable.”
Closing the airport, moving the airport’s flight schools, pollution from Santa Monica’s airport and the use of leaded fuel in aircraft are some of the other topics that will be on the agenda.
Santa Monica Airport Association President Steven Siry was unaware of the event until informed by The Argonaut. Siry says some of the members of his organization may attend the forum.
“It sounds like it will be many of the same people complaining about some of the same things about the airport that they have been for years,” he said.
Seeing the airport shut down is another priority of Tayor-Ross and her supporters, but is a move that Siry and other supporters of the airport oppose.
Those who want to see Santa Monica Airport shut down point to a fatal accident almost three years ago in Venice by a pilot practicing landings at Justice Aviation.
Robert Davenport was at the helm of a single-engine Cessna 152 July1, 2010 when his plane crashed near the eighth hole of the nine-hole Penmar Golf Course in Venice, not far from where the April 27 meeting will be held.
Davenport, who was practicing what are known in aviation parlance as “touch and go” landings, was killed in the crash. The landing being performed by Davenport is where a pilot essentially lands on a runway without coming to a full stop and then takes off again.
“‘Touch and goes’ are used in training to learn to judge the distance when a pilot is descending on a runway,” Santa Airport Director Robert Trimborn explained. “One of the most critical points in instruction in aviation is landing.”
Regarding leaded fuel in airplanes, Siry said this was not a complaint limited only to the Santa Monica Airport. “Fuel issues are global issues,” he said.
If the state would allow airplanes to use alcohol-free fuel, the association president believes, many pilots would use it if their engines were certified for non-leaded fuel. “Aviation gasoline (the fuel used by most airplanes) is about $7 a gallon,” Siry noted. “Unleaded fuel is less expensive.”
There have been previous forums where the issue of pollutants from the general aviation airfield was discussed and analyzed at length.
On Nov. 30, 2011, Lieu convened a panel of experts to give them and others an opportunity to offer their opinions as well as empirical evidence about how pollutants from the aircraft that land at the airport can affect those who reside near the airfield.
“There is no doubt in my mind that there are higher levels of particulate matter in the areas near the Santa Monica Airport,” the senator said after the 2011 forum. “And based on what these studies show, I believe that they are coming from the jet exhaust as well as from the piston aircraft.
“But again, it’s good to have experts explain that,” Lieu added. “And there could be public criticism of that and the experts can respond.”
One of the main reasons that the senator convened the air quality hearing was based on an analysis by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released this past summer. The July 13 investigation, which targeted minors living near airfields in North Carolina, revealed a high level of lead in their bloodstreams, which the agency found was caused by piston aircraft using aviation gasoline.
Taylor-Ross welcomes the input of Lieu and Waxman. “I have been very impressed with both of them,” she said.
Venice: Rep. Waxman expected to appear at community meeting on Santa Monica Airport
By Gary Walker