The high-pitched whine of older-model jets flying over Santa Monica, a sound that violates the city's noise regulations and irritates residents near the airport, would cease under a new aircraft regulation.
Santa Monica Airport Director Henry Dittmar has proposed that 17 models of jets be excluded from using the airport because they consistently violate aircraft noise limits. If approved by the Airport Commission at its Oct. 28 meeting, the ordinance would go into effect immediately, according to Dittmar.
"The exclusion would be based on actual noise measurements," said Dittmar, describing the troublesome jets as those dating back to the 1960s and '70s. "Each one of these jets has violated our noise limit 100% of the time."
The majority of the offending jets that would be excluded from the airport are based in other cities. Dittmar said he has not heard from any of the aircraft owners who would be affected by the regulation.
Santa Monica and West Los Angeles residents have complained about excessive airport noise for years. Last February, the city responded by lowering the allowable noise level from 100 to 95 decibels. The airport measures aircraft noise through microphones placed on the runway. Dittmar said the jet action would represent the first major application of the noise abatement program.
Dittmar said that 5 to 10 loud jets land at the airport each month. Although those aircraft represent a very small percentage of aircraft traffic--the airport handles 12,000 to 17,000 take-offs and landings each month--Dittmar said they account for about 60% of the noise complaints.
The aircraft that would be affected by the ordinance are Learjet models 23, 24, 24B, 24BA, 24D, 24E, 25, 25B, 25C, 25D, 25F and 28; North American Rockwell Sabreliner, Lockheed Jetstar, Hansa HFB320, Jet Commander 1121 and IAI Westwind 1123. Dittmar said pilots of those aircraft would have one chance to prove that they can meet noise limits, but he said compliance is doubtful.
"We want to give them the due process of one try," Dittmar said. "So it's not a flat-out ban. Basically, we're putting the aviation community on alert that these types of jets are not able to operate out of the airport without causing an undue hardship on the residents."
Denise DuBroy, who lives two blocks from the airport and sits on the airport commission, applauded the decision. DuBroy said she and her husband have noticed that those types of aircraft cause the most noise.
David Banks, a Venice resident who has complained about airport noise in the past, said the jets are louder than the propeller airplanes using the airport.
"Generally, you can tell the difference between a jet and an airplane flying over," Banks said. "I think a lot of pilots have the attitude that people who live (around the airport) are really too sensitive to noise. But everyone around Venice has been really annoyed by it."
A broad-based jet ban that was in effect at Santa Monica Airport from 1972 to 1979 was struck down by the courts as being discriminatory, but Dittmar predicted that the new regulation would stand up against any legal opposition because it is based on a specific noise standard.
Dittmar pointed out that the regulation is also in accord with a 1984 agreement reached with the Federal Aviation Administration. The agreement allows the city to set noise limits if it keeps the airport open until 2015.
"We're trying to balance the needs of the airport and the needs of the aviation community with that of the surrounding community. And (the community) deserves to be protected," Dittmar said.
E. H. Haupt of the National Business Aircraft Assn. in Washington said his organization would encourage pilots to abide by the regulation. Haupt said the group, which represents about 3,000 companies using commercial aircraft, advises pilots to avoid irritating residents whenever possible.
"The aircraft noise problem is the single greatest threat to existing airports and the creation of new ones," Haupt said. "So we're doing all we can to create a happy medium. We encourage local users to try and accommodate the community."
Barry Schiff, a TWA pilot and chairman of the board of the Santa Monica Airport Assn., echoed Haupt's assessment. Schiff said the proposed regulation does not sound discriminatory. He also said he doubted other pilots would fight it, especially with residents so adamant about reducing noise.
"If we don't cooperate with the neighbors the pressure will return to shut the airport down," Schiff said. "Some of the older (aircraft) are so loud and so pervasive that they destroy one's ability to think at night. I can understand how the neighbors would feel that way."