Santa Monica Airport to Use Computer, Cameras : Noise-Monitor System Approved

Times Staff Writer

The Santa Monica Airport Commission has approved a $200,000 computerized noise-monitoring system that officials say will help them identify noisy aircraft by using microphones and a video camera.

Airport administrator Henry Dittmar said the system will help the airport reduce noise in southeastern Santa Monica.

He said airport officials will measure noise produced by takeoffs and landings and either ban violators from the airport or fine them up to $500.

Initially, a microphone will be stationed at Penmar Golf Course and a video camera will be installed next to the runway at National Boulevard. A computer will process the noise data gathered by the microphone.

Later, two additional microphones, a weather station and a radio will be installed. The additional microphones will also be hooked up to the central computer, Dittmar said.

Once in place, the system will feed information on all aircraft that exceed the city's noise limits into the computer, which will print out details of the violation in the airport administrator's office. The camera will verify aircraft identification numbers.

City law limits noise from any aircraft to 95 decibels. Airport officials plan to set individual decibel limits for single-engine, twin-engine and jet aircraft, Dittmar said.

"We want to set a three-tiered performance standard for how loudly aircraft can fly," he said. "The reason is to encourage pilots to fly as quietly as possible. By spreading the responsibility for noise reduction to the overall fleet we can achieve a better overall reduction in community noise, rather than just assessing penalties against the very loudest aircraft."

He said planes will have to be monitored for about two years in order to determine average noise limits for different kinds of aircraft.

Airport officials want the state to pay for more than half of the project, Dittmar said. But the state Department of Transportation rejected a grant application last year, saying that the system would only monitor noise, not reduce it.

Dittmar, however, said he is trying to persuade state officials that the system would reduce noise because it eventually would enable officials to set noise limits for different aircraft.

He said the airport will reapply for a Caltrans grant to pay for 80% of the second phase of the system, which will cost about $160,000. Since the commission probably will not get to the request until May, the airport will pay $40,000 for the first phase, he said.

The city's noise monitoring system, installed in 1974, was one of the first in the country, Dittmar said. In 1984, the city adopted a noise-abatement program, placing microphones to measure airplane noise in neighborhoods near the airport.

Dittmar told the commission that airport use has declined by 20% since 1983, in part because of an overall reduction in flights nationwide and because some pilots are avoiding the airport with its strict noise standards.

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