The Santa Monica Airport Commission is creating a citizens committee to study safety issues following the third fatal crash in five months involving the facility.
Responding to a fresh wave of concern among Westside residents, the five-member commission agreed to establish an ad hoc committee made up primarily of representatives from communities near the airport.
"I'm not going to limit this to Santa Monica because the airport touches more than one community," said John Ezell, commission chairman.
The action follows a crash last week in which a pilot was killed. It was the third time since November that a small plane has crashed into a densely populated Westside neighborhood. The accidents resulted in five deaths, all aboard the aircraft.
The airport, one of the busier single-runway facilities in the nation, had averaged a crash a year until recently, a safety record that airport officials have lauded.
Airport officials insist that the airport is safe, and no evidence has surfaced to suggest practices there contributed to the recent crashes. Preliminary findings by the National Transportation Safety Board have suggested that mechanical failure was to blame in all three crashes; final inquiry results are not expected for months.
Nonetheless, the airport's many adversaries have latched onto the string of tragedies to renew their call for changes at the facility.
At a commission hearing Monday night, residents reissued longstanding complaints about airport noise, low approaches, pilots who ignore a ban on night departures and a general indifference to neighbors' complaints by Federal Aviation Administration employees stationed at the airport.
But Commissioner Brian Ouzounian argued successfully to limit the ad hoc committee's focus to safety.
"The issue at hand is planes falling out of the sky and crashing," he said.
Among the neighborhoods to be represented on the panel are the Lincoln Place Apartments in Venice, Sunset Park and Pico in Santa Monica, and parts of West Los Angeles bordering the airport.
Airport and city officials, as well as representatives of airport-based companies, also will serve on the panel; the FAA will advise the group.
On Tuesday night, the City Council postponed until next week a debate on whether to hire an outside safety consultant to evaluate the airport.