A $30 tape recorder apparently has helped end a 17-year dispute over noise from jetliners that fly over Topanga Canyon and Calabasas.
Federal Aviation Administration officials said last week that commercial pilots will be required to fly higher above the canyon after taking off from Los Angeles International Airport for Northern California.
Jetliners will not be allowed to turn north over Santa Monica Bay until they have reached an altitude of 4,000 feet, said George Sullivan, assistant air traffic manager for the airport.
This means, FAA officials calculate, that planes will be at about 11,000 feet when they pass over Topanga Canyon and even higher when they reach Calabasas. They now pass over those communities as low as 9,000 feet.
Aviation officials announced the new policy after listening to a tape of jet noise made on a hand-held recorder in the living room of Topanga Canyon resident Barry Glaser.
On the tape, the jets could be heard for about 35 seconds as they passed over the canyon home.
FAA officers "were floored when they heard it. They had no idea how loud it gets up here," Glaser said.
Complaints about noise from aircraft using a takeoff path known to pilots as Gorman 5 are not new. Protests from Calabasas residents began soon after the FAA slightly rerouted the northbound departure lane westward from Woodland Hills in 1969.
About 70 outbound commercial flights use the route each day.
FAA technicians have periodically monitored noise on Calabasas streets with sophisticated sound meters. But the most recent tests last year showed that noise was within acceptable levels, officials said.
The new policy will require commercial pilots to fly higher over the ocean before heading inland, Sullivan said.
"They'll be going farther out before they make their right turn," Sullivan said.
Glaser, a member of the board of the Topanga Town Council, said officials have assured him that it will be noticeably quieter in the canyon and in nearby Calabasas starting in about three weeks.
He said FAA administrators have agreed to attend the next town council meeting March 2 to explain the new procedures to residents. The council has no official standing but advises the county on community affairs.