Save Santa Monica Airport!

Keeping this historical and beautiful airport open is a battle worth fighting.



Last week, the Los Angeles Times reported that two members of the Los Angeles City Council suggested the closure of all flight schools at Santa Monica airport. This is just another scheme in a continuing battle that has been fought for decades and one that has bothered me ever since I first started flying at Santa Monica.

The article claims that the closures are necessary to “stop "dangerous manuevers" by student pilots over densely populated areas and to reduce noise as well as air pollution in residential neighborhoods.” But what’s truly frustrating is that their argument has nothing to do with safety. What the council members are doing is using scare tactics to silence residents complaining of airport noise.

The article states that, in the past 30 years, there have been eight minor accidents at the airport involving flight training, none of which caused serious injuries or fatalities. That’s impressive considering there is a lot of flight training activity going on out of the six flight schools at the airport every day. And it’s a testament to how safe flight training really is.

Councilman Rosendahl admits in the article that this is part of a political scheme to close the airport by 2015, though the City is technically obligated to keep it open until 2023 due to federal grants accepted for the airport. But I still have high hopes that Santa Monica Airport will live on.

There are so many reasons to keep this airport alive and thriving. In addition to the six flight schools, there are many businesses and jobs that would be lost should the airport close. There are three restaurants, several aircraft mechanics, avionics shops, and of course the control tower, just to name a few. The airport was there nearly 100 years ago — decades before any of the homes in the area were built and many, many decades before those who complain about the noise it produces moved in.

It would be a true shame to lose what I consider the most beautiful airport in the United States and a large piece of aviation history. The airport grounds at Santa Monica Airport were first officially used in 1919. Donald Douglas started Douglas Aircraft Company there in 1922 and the company built 10,724 aircraft over 50 years in Santa Monica. Howard Hughes learned to fly at Santa Monica Airport in the 20s and continued to fly there for the next 40 years. The first women’s air race the “Powder Puff Derby” was flown out of the airport in 1929 with famous aviatrixes such as Amelia Earhart, Pancho Barnes and Louise Thaden.

The homes built near the airport were built to support the large employee base at Douglas Aircraft — as many as 44,000 at one point. I could understand residents complaining of noise when the “noisemaker” moved into the neighborhood after they did. But in this case, this is clearly not the case. Many limitations have been applied to the airport to minimize its effect on the neighborhood. A few examples are departure curfews, alternate departure routes and maximum noise levels that essentially prohibit certain aircraft from using the airport. Get over it, complainers! Let the airport stay, and continue its good work in employing people and serving the community’s aviation needs.

If the day comes when large X’s are dug into the runway at Santa Monica, like Mayor Daley did with another beautiful, historical airport — Meigs Field in Chicago, it will be a very dark day for general aviation.