Residents Say Flight Plan Changes Dramatically Increased Air
Traffic Where They Live
When the FAA conducted flight path
tests at Santa Monica airport in California, it concluded that the
test caused only a minimal impact on the residents, but
significantly eased congestion and delays at both Santa Monica
(KSMO) and Los Angeles International (KLAX).
But the residents were skeptical, and requested nine months of
data from the FAA under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). They
said they felt that the agency could be downplaying the number of
flights that were directed over their neighborhood, and asked for a
complete record of all flights flying the test route known as the
"250 degree heading."
The Santa Monica Daily Press reports that the residents, which
formed an organization "Neighbors for a Safe and Healthy
Community," requested a fee waiver for the data, saying that the
request was for a non-commercial purpose.
That waiver was denied by the FAA, which will provide the data,
but at a cost of about $100,000. FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen
said digging up the information, and there is a lot of it, would
require about 1,100 man hours, and it was unclear if all the data
requested would be available. "It's a tremendous amount of data,"
she said. "It has to be carefully screened to eliminate that type
of data that is not releasable for security reasons." Compiling
just a fraction the data ... 45 days worth ... would cost an
estimated $99,630, the FAA said.
The denial letter from the FAA said
"the disclosure of the requested information will not contribute to
the understanding of the public at large," but rather "a narrow
segment of interested persons."
The group has hired an attorney and plans to appeal the FAA's
The test results are expected to be made public in August. The
FAA said that delays at both airports were significantly decreased
when GA traffic was routed out of the same airspace used by
commercial airliners, but it has not determined whether to make the
The neighborhood group says that the FAA is still reviewing the
data it has requested, and that they should simply turn that
information over to the public. But the FAA's Bergen says
information such as military and Air Force One movements has to be
redacted from those reports, and that requires a great deal of time