Thursday, December 22, 2011

Flight Schools Agree to Reduce Night Pattern Flying

As a result of community pressure, flight schools at SMO have agreed to a voluntary reduction in pattern flying activity during the evenings.  The following was the official city press release today:

SANTA MONICA AIRPORT FLIGHT SCHOOLS AGREE TO IMPLEMENT
VOLUNTARY NIGHT FLYING RESTRICTIONS

SANTA MONICA, CA - In response to community concerns and in recognition of the negative noise impact of night pattern flying activity, all of the flight schools based at the Santa Monica Airport have agreed to implement a voluntary limit on repeated takeoffs and landings in the pattern at Santa Monica Airport beyond the requirements established in the Santa Monica Municipal Code.

Under the voluntary restrictions, renters and instructors will not fly repeated takeoffs and landings in the pattern at Santa Monica Airport after 8:00 P.M. during Pacific Standard Time (November to March) Monday through Saturday.  During Pacific Daylight Time (March to November), renters and instructors will not fly repeated takeoffs and landings in the pattern at Santa Monica Airport after 9:00 P.M. Monday through Saturday. The flight schools have also agreed to not fly repeated takeoffs and landings in the pattern after 8:00 P.M. during Sundays throughout the year.

The Airport currently has a night departure curfew. No takeoffs or engine starts are permitted between 11:00 P.M. and 7:00 A.M. Monday through Friday, or until 8:00 A.M. on weekends and holidays.  Exceptions are allowed for bona fide medical or public safety emergencies only. Additionally, the Airport has a voluntary night arrival curfew. Although arrivals are permitted 24 hours per day, pilots are requested to avoid all operations between 11:00 P.M. and 7:00 A.M. Monday through Friday, or until 8:00 A.M. on weekends and holidays.

This voluntary pattern flying restriction will result in a net reduction of 15 hours per week during daylight savings time and 21 hours per week in non-daylight savings time where they could legally engage in repeated takeoffs and landings while pattern flying.  They may still fly during those hours, but it would not be repeated takeoffs and landings in the pattern - it would be just one take off and flying elsewhere and then one landing upon their return. 

Federal Air Regulations require pilots to be proficient in conducting takeoffs and landings during night time hours. These voluntary restrictions will allow sufficient hours for training at Santa Monica Airport to meet the demands of night currency required by the Federal Aviation Regulations and at the same time reduce the amount repeated takeoffs and landings at hours that are more likely to disturb our neighbors.

The City of Santa Monica appreciates the effort that the flight schools are taking to reduce their overall impact on the community and enhance the Airport’s fly neighborly program.  The City will continue to cooperatively pursue additional strategies and programs with the aircraft community that will result in reduced impacts of aircraft operations to the community.

For additional information regarding the Airport’s noise abatement program, please visit the Santa Monica Airport web page at:http://www.smgov.net/departments/airport/.
The original signed statement from the flight schools can be found here.  While the community appreciates the symbolic gesture on the part of the flight schools, we must point out that this offer falls far short of compliance with the intent of the SMO pattern flying ordinance:


Touch and Go and Stop and Go operations are prohibited on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, and during weekdays between one-half (1/2) hour after sunset and 7:00 a.m. of the following morning. This restriction shall not apply in emergencies, where necessitated by safety considerations, or when required by the Federal Aviation Administration. 

This ordinance is badly worded and instead of banning pattern flying during these periods it explicitly mentions touch-and-go and stop-and-go maneuvers.  This has allowed the flight schools to circumvent the intent of the ordinance by executing taxi-back maneuvers.  This is why they are still able to perform pattern flying in the evenings and on weekends despite the ordinance.


At SMO, on average during Pacific Daylight time (about 8 months), Sunset is around 7:15 PM so pattern flying should be banned from 7:45 PM onwards not 9:00 PM.  During Pacific Standard Time (about 4 months) Sunset averages around 5:15 PM, so pattern flying should be banned from 5:45 PM not 8:00 PM as offered.

So for 4 months of the year this offer is 2 hours and 15 minutes less than intended by the ordinance, and for 8 months of the year this offer is 1 hour and 15 minutes less than intended by the ordinance.

Also the intent of the ordinance was that there be NO pattern flying whatsoever on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays.  

If the SMO ordinance were effective as intended, given the 11 PM curfew and 7 AM start (8 AM on Sunday), it would ban pattern flying for the following number of hours each year:

15 x 52 (Sundays) + 16 x 52 (Saturdays) + 6 x 16 (Holidays) = 1,708 hours
5.25 x (365-(2x52+6)) x 4/12 (Standard Time)                       = 397 hours
3.25 x (365-(2x52+6)) x 8/12 (Daylight Time)                        = 574 hours
                                                                                              ------------
                                                                                             2,679 hours  (52 hours/week)

By contrast, the offer made by the flight school prevents pattern flying for the following number of hours each year:

3 x 52 (Sundays) = 156 hours
3 x (365-52) x 4/12 (Standard Time) = 313 hours
2 x (365-52) x 8/12 (Daylight Time) = 417 hours
------------
                                                           886 hours (or 17 hours/week)

The flight schools have basically offered to circumvent the intent of the existing pattern flying ordinance 33% (one third) less than in the past.  Given this context, the community is unlikely to accept this arrangement as the final word on pattern flying.

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