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Pressure Pays Off: Jets Won't Turn Over El Segundo

February 05, 1989|TIM WATERS | Times Staff Writer

Score one for El Segundo in its war against noisy planes that take off from Los Angeles International Airport and, according to city officials and residents, fly over the community.

Federal Aviation Administration officials said last week that under a new policy effective by early April, air traffic controllers will tell pilots not to turn their aircraft until they are a mile out over the ocean. Currently, pilots are permitted to turn when they reach the shoreline.

Ted Davies, the FAA's control tower chief at LAX, conceded in an interview that pressure from angry El Segundo officials is responsible for the agency's decision to alter the policy.

For years, city officials have complained that pilots have turned too quickly to the south after taking off from LAX, putting their aircraft over El Segundo. Fed up with the problem, the officials in December erected a sign--visible from the air and illuminated at night--that reads: "UNSAFE AREA FOR JETS."

The idea behind the sign, which has attracted national attention, is to deter pilots from flying over the city, lest they unnerve their passengers.

Despite the FAA's action, Davies steadfastly maintained in an interview that the problem of aircraft turning too early is more a perceived one on the part of El Segundo officials and residents than a real one.

Only on rare occasions do controllers instruct pilots to turn before reaching the shoreline, he said, for example when a pilot trying to land misses his approach. Also, if a plane were taking off on an adjacent runway, it might be instructed to turn earlier to ensure a proper distance between itself and the other aircraft.

But Davies said the FAA wants to be a good neighbor and that is why it decided to take "that extra step" to show El Segundo officials that it cares.

"What we are trying to do is work with them," he said.

El Segundo City Manager Fred Sorsabal said the FAA's decision to make pilots fly farther from the city before turning is "probably one of the first positive " steps taken by the agency to solve the problem. The city receives a handful of complaints every day about aircraft flying over their homes, he said.

"I think if they are sincere in enforcing it, then it will work," Sorsabal said. "But if they don't enforce it, it is just another one of those nice things on the books."

For the time being, Sorsabal said, the city's sign will stay in place.

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