Accurately answering and disseminating questions and information regarding aircraft operations at the Santa Monica Airport will continue to be a top priority for Administration. The questions and resulting answers below are presented to the public for information purposes.
Information regarding aircraft noise, aircraft operations & safety, the SMMC and other related questions are always welcomed from members of our community and responded to with the best means necessary. Much of the information placed here can already be found throughout the website; however, if you have a specific question or have a section you think might be important to share with other Web Viewers interested in the Santa Monica Airport, please add your comments to our Complaint Form or send us an email or by contacting the Airport’s Noise/Operations Hotline at (310) 458-8692.
Frequently Asked Questions have been grouped into four broad categories:
• Aircraft Noise
• Aircraft Operations & Safety
• City of Santa Monica Municipal Code – “Noise Code”
• General Questions
Q. What would be the difference (in decibels) of an aircraft flying at 100 feet over a home, compared to one flying at 500 feet over a home? What equation is used to determine the change in decibels?
A. 13.979 dB. The change in decibels (dB) is determined by the following equation: 20 times the logarithm base 10 of the ratio of those two distances. In the question presented, the answer is determined as 20 times the log of 100 over 500 or 20 * log (100 / 500) = -13.9794001. For a rough linear estimate, sound in decibels (dB) from a point source changes about 6 dB for each doubling of distance.
For a specific case explanation CLICK HERE.
Q. What measurement devices are available to measure the decibel levels at the eastern end of the runway, at runway level?
A. Located at Sardis Street & Granville Street in West Los Angeles, Remote Monitoring Station (RMS02), and at approximately 2828 Bundy Drive South Remote Monitoring Station (RMS06).
Q. What is the average SENEL dB level in Clover Park when a jet departs?
A. The City does not collect SENEL dBA noise data for locations in Clover Park. Pursuant to federal and state regulations, the average of SENEL noise measurements is calculated using the formula for Community Noise Equivalency Levels (CNEL) at each of both enforcement noise monitors. CNEL noise contours based upon the collected noise data are determined using the Integrated Noise Modeling (INM) program approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Q. How was the maximum allowable 95 dB SENEL noise limit determined?
A. As a result of the Santa Monica Airport Agreement between the City of Santa Monica and the FAA in 1984, a Noise Code was established setting a maximum noise level of 95.0 dBA Single Event Noise Exposure Level (SENEL) as measured at noise monitor sites (RMS01 and RMS02) 1,500 feet from each end of the runway.
Q. How does SENEL equate into the 65 dB CNEL noise contour line?
A. All Single Event Noise Exposure Level events are logarithmically averaged to determined the 65 dB CNEL Noise Contour Line via a computer modeling program called the Integrated Noise Model (INM).
Q. The FAA considers noise above 65 dB CNEL to be unacceptable for residences, where are these levels (noise contours) in relation to the Santa Monica Airport?
A. There are no residences located within the 65 dB CNEL noise contour line at SMO. The 65 dB CNEL contour line falls within airport boundary. For last year's CNEL presentation CLICK HERE.
Q. What method would be used to change the federal standard for aircraft noise measurement?
A. Legislation by the United States Congress or formal administrative action to adopt new regulations for inclusion in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).
Q. Are the noise monitors placed in the best location on the vertical lines? What interferences, like hills or houses, change the measurements?
A. Sites for the enforceable noise monitors (RMS01 & RMS02) were selected well over 30 years ago. The monitors sit a top 30’-50’ telephone poles well above obstructions.
Q. How often are the noise monitors checked to see they are working properly?
A. The monitor sites are manually calibrated at least twice per year to State standards. The system performs an electronic recalibration check after each noise event in excess of 95 dB SENEL.
Q. Is noise associated with LAX or General Aviation Over-flights (Non-SMO Traffic) measured and included with the Santa Monica Airport Annual CNEL Noise contours? Is that something that can be done?
A. No. Over flight Noise (Non-SMO traffic) is not part f the Annual CNEL(a) Aircraft Noise Contour. These noises are computed as part of the CNEL(c) or Community Level.
Q. Do commercial aviation and general aviation airports use the same methods for measuring noise?
Aircraft Operations & Safety
Q. What can residents do to ensure airport curfews are enforced? What else can you do?
A. City Staff enforces the departure curfew as outlined in the Santa Monica Municipal Code. Last year there were few unauthorized departures during curfew hours. Violators were met with fines or ban of use from the facility.
Q. What is the maximum (elevation) over land that we could expect planes to adhere to for landing?
A. The FAA has jurisdictional authority for all aircraft in flight.
Federal Air Regulations Part 91.119 [24 C.F.R. Part 91] Dictates Minimum Safe Altitudes - Except when necessary for takeoff or landing, no person may operate an aircraft below the following altitudes:
(a) Anywhere - An altitude allowing, if a power unit fails, an emergency landing without undue hazard to persons or property on the surface.
(b) Over congested areas - Over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons, an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of the aircraft.
(c) Over other than congested areas - An altitude of 500 feet above the surface, except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In those cases, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle or structure.
(d) Helicopters - Helicopters may be operated at less than the minimums prescribed in paragraph (b) or (c) of this section if the operation is conducted without hazard to persons or property on the surface. In addition, each person operating a helicopter shall comply with any routes or altitudes specifically prescribed for helicopters by the Administrator.
Q. Since most of the noise violators are jets, and most of them are not able to land with a sufficiently safety over-run area; why doesn’t the City ask the FAA to revisit the 1984 Santa Monica Airport Agreement and establish new regulations?
A. The issue of adhering to the City’s maximum single event noise level and the adequacy of the runway safety areas are separate issues. The City will continue to enforce its current aircraft noise abatement requirements and encourage the use of the voluntary abatement procedures.
Q. Is there a cut-off on how many planes may use the Airport? Per day? Per week?
A. No. As shown in the Annual Noise & Operations Report, 2008 was the lowest year for aircraft operations since staff had made recordings in 1957. In 1966, for instance, there were over 350,000 aircraft operations compared to 123,000 in 2008.
Q. How does the amount of aircraft operations compare to past years?
A. Review the Annual Noise Report Presentation posted on the airport website.
Q. What traffic pattern altitude do jets fly at?
A. All multi engine aircraft, when flying in the airport traffic pattern stay at or above 1,700 feet above sea level.
Q. How and why was the helicopter approach pattern changed?
A. The helicopter pattern was re-evaluated, because controllers and operators had deviated from the recommended procedure as outlined in the FAA/CSM Letter of Agreement dated November 1995.
Q. Can the recommended altitude for helicopters be raised to reduce approach noise?
A. No. Because of operating restrictions and careful consideration of safety factors, helicopters must arrive at an altitude lower than fixed wing traffic – 900 feet in altitude.
City Municipal Code
Q. If residents would prefer the 95 dB limit be lowered, who at the FAA & City, should residents discuss this with?
A. The SMO maximum allowable aircraft noise limit of 95 dBA SENEL has been adopted as part of the Santa Monica Municipal Code based upon the authority granted the City pursuant to the Santa Monica Airport Agreement between the City and the FAA. The Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990 (ANCA) would make adoption of new aircraft restrictions extremely difficult to adopt, but the current aircraft noise restriction was exempted from the provisions of ANCA. New restrictions could require federal legislation.
Q. Why is there such a differential between aircraft being warned and those receiving fines or being banned?
A. Aircraft are issued noise violations in accordance with City Municipal Code. First a Warning, then a $2,000 Fine, then a $5,000 fine, then a $10,000 fine and then banned from use of the airport. Almost all of the warnings being issued were first time offences.
Q. Number of times per year the airport accounts for violation of (a) the 5-minute city noise ordinance of 65 dB, and (b) the 15-minute ordinance of 60 dB, which constitutes the City of Santa Monica’s Noise Ordinance for Level II areas. Why aren’t these calculations being done for aircraft on the Santa Monica Airport?
A. As outlined in the City Municipal Code, aircraft are exempt from this section.
Q. Why is the Santa Monica Municipal Code not being enforced concerning mechanic certification for aircraft repair, aircraft weight limitations and noise abatement?
A. All applicable sections of the SMMC are enforced as outlined.
Q. What plans are being made for when the 1984 agreement expires in 2015 (to possibly lessen jet aircraft noise)? Are there studies? Is there a strategy?
A. The Administration works on aircraft noise abatement issues on an ongoing basis. Any actions taken in 2015 would be based upon the ongoing work occurring between now and 2015. The current provisions of the Santa Monica Municipal Code do not expire and will remain in effect after 2015 unless removed by the Santa Monica City Council.
Q. I feel the Noise Fines are too lenient – how can they be stronger?
A. A similar item was posed to the City Council in 2000. As a result, Proposition MM was put on the ballot to raise the fines from $500 to the current $2,000, $5,000 & $10,000 limits now imposed. This went into effect on December 14, 2001.
Q. How long does it take to fine and get the money?
A. Operators pay their fine in 30 days or a 10% penalty is added to the fine. If an operator does not pay the fine, they are banned from using the airport until the fine is paid.
Q. Can we revisit the 1984 agreement regarding the 95 dB SENEL limit?
A. Items under the 1984 agreement can be discussed with the FAA, however the airport would have to go through the provisions and guidelines outline in FAR 161 in order to change the conditions of the agreement and adopt new aircraft restrictions. The 1984 agreement is the basis of the SMMC “Noise Code” and is the strictest aircraft noise code in the country.
Q. Is there a plan to have your website more ‘real time’ with data posted within 24 hours for emergency landings at night, violations of noise code, posted ‘field readings’ from the neighborhoods impacted?
A. The Monthly Noise Reports contain this data. There are no plans to provide this information on the website aside from the monthly reports which have been audited. Community members may call-in for this type of information at (310) 458-8692 to find answers to their questions immediately.