Hassle Over Airport : Torrance Flyover Flops; Heated Rhetoric Cools Off

Times Staff Writer

An aerial demonstration, which sponsors once threatened would make so much noise that angry and bleary-eyed residents would storm City Hall, turned out to be an almost quiet, private affair as a small group of pilots and friends watched a single-prop World War II plane make a single trip over the Torrance Municipal Airport.

"I wasn't impressed," said City Councilman Mark Wirth, the only member of the council who showed up Wednesday afternoon up to watch the North American AT-6 attempting to roar its 850-hp engine 1,600 feet above the ground. The plane was scheduled to fly at an altitude of 1,000 feet, but heavy aircraft traffic around the airport forced it to fly higher, lessening the effect of the noise.

The Noise Abatement Center at the airport said the noise level reached 88 decibels, the maximum allowed under Torrance regulations for landings or takeoffs. Outside the pilots lounge near the control tower, a pilot reported a reading of 83 decibels. (The name of the pilot in the AT-6 was undisclosed.)

Clark Garen, the attorney/pilot who has filed separate lawsuits against the city and homeowners near the airport over noise regulations, said the demonstration was toned down to show the city that pilots have the weapons to fight, but that they are willing to be reasonable in trying to reach a settlement on the regulations.

"I scaled back because other members of the aviation community felt we should give a demonstration in an unemotional state," he said. "We didn't want the issue to become any more emotionally charged than it already is."

Garen said that, as a good-will gesture in an attempt to resolve the issue out of court, he would hold off staging any more demonstrations or serving any more residents with copies of his lawsuit. He still would not say exactly how many residents have been served, only that the number is "less than 100, but more than 50."

"I am willing to play any role that the politicians want me to play in order to reach an accord," Garen said.

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