New Airport System May Bring 'Happy Landings'

Times Staff Writer

The Federal Aviation Administration has approved funds for a new, more accurate guidance system that officials say will increase safety for planes landing at Santa Monica Airport in bad weather.

The new Localizer/DME (for Distance Measuring Equipment) approach system, used by pilots making instrument landings, also will cut noise in the surrounding neighborhoods by reducing the number of planes that have to circle the airport in bad weather before landing, airport director Hank Dittmar said.

"The localizer will actually bring (pilots) in closer to the airport, therefore making it more likely that they will see the airport and will be able to land," he said. He added, however, that only about 5% of the landings at the airport are instrument-guided.

Venice resident Ed McQueeney, who has been fighting the airport noise problem as part of the Venice Committee on Santa Monica's Airport, said his group is more concerned with noise from takeoffs than from landings "but if this drop in the bucket helps, great."

"If you're saying that this only pertains to instrument landings, that's a small proportion of the flights to Santa Monica," he said. "But if that alleviates any noise whatsoever, terrific. We'd welcome anything."

Fellow committee member Allison Argo agreed with McQueeney.

"We want more equitable (takeoff) flight patterns," she said, adding that the new guidance system "might make a small improvement for us, but I don't believe that this is the major part of our problem."

The Visual Omni-Range (VOR) guidance system the airport presently employs can only guide planes to about 500 feet above the airport, said Dittmar. He said he did not know how much closer the new system would be able to guide them.

Funding for the new system was requested by Rep. Mel Levine (D-Santa Monica) for the 1989 fiscal year, and Dittmar said he hopes to have the $400,000 Localizer/DME system installed within the next two years.

The VOR system, which also helps guide commercial and private air traffic into the Los Angeles area, will remain in operation even after the new system is installed, he said.

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