At least five flight schools in Santa Monica are under attack from members of Los Angeles City Council. A resolution was recently introduced that would allow lobbyists in Washington to press for legislation to close flight schools and alter flight plans. Complaints from residents about noise are being used in the effort by council members Janice Hahn and Bill Rosendahl.
While the council members seem to be targeting the flight schools in the Santa Monica area right now, it is believed the ultimate goal of the council members is to close the airport. The initial goal is to force the Federal Aviation Administration to force flight schools in certain areas to close or alter flight plans. Changes, if implemented, would not just affect California, but flight schools throughout the United States.
Officials in Santa Monica have said that closure of the airport used by flight schools there is a possibility. Those representing flight training and pilot training schools in Santa Monica contend that the LA City Council members have no first-hand knowledge of the aviation training industry and do not realize the impact of what they are doing.
The Santa Monica Municipal Airport has a long history in the area. The facility was built in the early 1920s and is one of the oldest still operating on the West Coast. Douglas Aircraft was once housed at the facility until a move to Long Beach. Flight and pilot schools in the area have helped many aspiring pilots receive the training necessary to attain their license to work as a commercial pilot or elsewhere in the aviation industry.
The airport in Santa Monica has become a popular location for use by private jet owners due to its proximity to Malibu and Beverly Hills. Approximately 105,000 planes depart from the airport each year, which is about 285 flights per day. Rosendahl asserts that the airport poses threats to the residents in the area. Rosendahl is among those pushing for a change in flight paths of planes originating from the airport.
Currently departing aircraft fly over the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles. There is a potential for crossing paths with flights heading out of Los Angeles International Airport. Rosendahl is suggesting that aircraft make a 40-degree turn to the north after taking off from the airport.
This change in flight direction would put aircraft directly over some residential neighborhoods in Santa Monica. Stuart Cook, who owns an aviation school in Santa Monica, believes that the residents in the Los Angeles neighborhoods the LA city council members are allegedly trying to protect knew about the airport prior to moving in.
In January 2009, two people were killed when an aerobatic plane crashed at the airport’s west end. In August of 2009, a pilot trying to crash land a single-engine plane died at the airport. In 2010, a commercial pilot crashed shortly after takeoff.
Those representing flight schools in the area counter charges that flight school students engage in dangerous maneuvers, pointing out that fatalities involved mostly experienced pilots. The airport currently has an agreement with the city to remain in operation until 2014. It remains to be seen what the future of the airport will be after that time.