A community study to determine the effects of a yearlong moratorium on weekend and holiday flight training at the airport will be scrapped if survey sponsors believe that pending lawsuits against residents and the city are influencing responses, the City Council has decided.
The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to accept a recommendation by the Council Transportation Committee to closely monitor a survey by Wyle Laboratories on the effects of the moratorium on residents, pilots and other users of the Torrance Municipal Airport. Results of the survey are expected in late March.
Wyle had proposed surveying 100 Torrance-based pilots, five Torrance-based flight school operators and 400 residents, half within the affected airport area, the other half randomly selected from telephone directories.
Wyle had wanted to ask residents how they feel about aircraft noise; how the noise compared to a year ago; if they understand what touch-and-go landings are (repeated takeoffs and landings by student pilots); if they are aware that a moratorium on such operations was in effect, and how effective they believe the moratorium has been in reducing noise.
The City Council decided that only the residential area affected by the moratorium will be surveyed, and it asked Wyle to rewrite its questions to be more objective and generalized. The City Council will review the new questions before the survey begins. The committee report said the survey should try to separate attitudes on airport operations in general from the effect of the moratorium.
Council members expressed concern that pending suits against residents and the city over airport regulations would inhibit homeowners from answering truthfully. In December, pilot/attorney Clark Garen filed a suit threatening to raze the homes of residents living near the airport who complained about it. He filed another suit that would have the federal government take over the airport because the city allowed the homes to be built. The suit claims that the residential neighborhoods are incompatible with the airport and violate the trust deed that gave the city control of the airport in 1948.
A Wyle spokesman said the survey would be scrapped after just 10% of the residents have been surveyed if it appears that responses are evasive or biased.
The names of residents surveyed will be kept confidential, but the respondent's residence will be shown as a dot on a map.
The City Council last month extended the flight-training moratorium to April 4 and gave the go-ahead for the data-gathering portion of the study. However, the council expressed concern over how residents would be surveyed and referred the matter to the council committee and the Airport Commission.
The Airport Commission had recommended that the survey not be done until it was known whether the city will get a federal grant for a comprehensive study of the airport, including the effects of the moratorium. But the city staff recommended that the survey be done now.