Mark Smith, a solar energy entrepreneur who keeps his Mooney single-engine plane at the airport and lives in nearby Sunset Park, said the facility has been "a vital tool for operation of my business." He said he has no patience for complaints about air quality, given the region's car dependency. "If you're concerned about pollution in Santa Monica," he said, "then close down Ocean Park Boulevard and the 10 Freeway."
Despite the downward trend in airport use, residents' complaints have soared. Seeking to reduce delays at both Santa Monica Airport and Los Angeles International Airport, the FAA tested a new Santa Monica departure heading, or direction, for six months starting in December 2009. Although the agency assigned the heading to an average of just 10 small, propeller-powered aircraft a day, spokesman Ian Gregor said, "the city forwarded us more than 41,000 noise complaints that residents made." (Pilots operating under visual flight rules could also choose to use that heading, and those flights accounted for some of the complaints.)